“Tabby’s Star”, more formally KIC 8462852, made the news in 2015 due its very bizarre pattern of dimming. Its dimming wasn’t consistent with any known natural phenomenon, like clouds of gas or large planets passing in front of it, or sunspots. There was some rather sensational speculation that the star could be surrounded by some alien megastructure like a Dyson Sphere intended to capture the star’s energy for some advanced civilization.
Well, it’s at it again, and astronomers are excited. Major telescopes around the world are turning to it in the hopes of gathering more data on what’s really going on with the “WTF star”.
The professional astronomers I’ve seen talk about this star are pretty confident it’s just some natural occurrence that we haven’t seen before. The press makes it sound as though all natural explanations for this star’s behavior have been ruled out, but that’s really not the case. The whole Dyson Sphere thing is a fun possibility, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Just because we don’t understand something isn’t proof of aliens – it’s just proof that we don’t understand something.
But, here’s the great thing about science – if studying this star gives us new insights into how the universe works, that could be just as exciting! Perhaps this star has something to tell us about dark matter, or some exotic proto-planetary disk, or a massive collision of its planets that enshrouded the star with rocky debris. Whatever the cause of its dimming, it’s sure to be as worthy of a science fiction story as the aliens we can imagine to be out there.