Astronomers may have found giant alien ‘megastructures’ orbiting star near the Milky Way

Oct 15, 2015

Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

By Lee Williams

A large cluster of objects in space look like something you would “expect an alien civilization to build”, astronomers have said.

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish a report on the “bizarre” star system suggesting the objects could be a “swarm of megastructures”, according to a new report.

“I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told The Atlantic. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilisation to build.”

The snappily named KIC 8462852 star lies just above the Milky Way between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It first attracted the attention of astronomers in 2009 when the Kepler Space Telescope identified it as a candidate for having orbiting Earth-like planets.

But KIC 8462852 was emitting a stranger light pattern than any of the other stars in Kepler’s search for habitable planets.


34 comments on “Astronomers may have found giant alien ‘megastructures’ orbiting star near the Milky Way

  • @OP link – That’s when Wright, the astronomer from Penn State University and his colleague Andrew Siemion, the Director of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) got involved. Now the possibility that the objects were created by intelligent creatures is being taken very seriously by the team.

    I think this looks like wishful thinking by SETI enthusiasts + media hype.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KIC_8462852
    KIC 8462852 is an F-type main-sequence star located in the constellation Cygnus approximately 454 parsecs (≈1481 light years) from Earth. In September 2015, several astronomers published a paper analyzing the unusual light fluctuations of the star as measured by the Kepler Space Telescope,[1][2] a probe that records changes in the brightness of distant orbiting stars to detect exoplanets.

    The star’s large irregular changes in brightness is consistent with a large mass (or many small masses together) orbiting the star in “tight formation”.[2] Some hypotheses have been proposed to explain the star’s unusual light profile. Researchers currently think the most likely explanation for the star’s odd reduction in light is due to a series of chunks of a broken up comet orbiting the star elliptically.

    At that sort of distance they are not going to see much detail!

    There are plenty of fragmented debris flying around in interplanetary space and interstellar space.
    Comets comprising of several lumps simply held together by gravity, could easily separate into a cluster when approaching a star or large planet.



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  • From the OP: “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilisation to build.”

    How can anyone have a real idea of what an alien would build or what it would look like? A simple look around this planet tells us architecture can be hard to second-guess. Wishful thinking is about right Alan.

    As far as guessing what an alien structure would be like, we touched on another thread about envisaging a non-existent tree on a planet that did not exist, or something like that. Sorry Dan but philosophy was never my strong point.



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  • I totally agree that it’s highly speculative, media-hype, and very unlikely.
    But I don’t disagree with those who are more enthusiastic about a possible alien connection. We need that enthusiasm.
    And, if we really are optimistic about finding alien intelligence someday, it’s only a matter of time before something like this does turn out to be positive.
    All of the effort and cost that’s gone in to exploring the skies, I would hope does yield something, and if it happens in my lifetime, awesome!
    What concerns me more is that we’ll finally find something, but people today are so easily bored by everything that unless it’s a giant reptilian space monster in a shiny flying saucer, no one will care much about discovering some unmanned industrial power plant 1500 light years away.



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  • kurtoli
    Oct 16, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I totally agree that it’s highly speculative, media-hype, and very unlikely.
    But I don’t disagree with those who are more enthusiastic about a possible alien connection. We need that enthusiasm.
    And, if we really are optimistic about finding alien intelligence someday, it’s only a matter of time before something like this does turn out to be positive.

    My problem is not with enthusiasm (which I would encourage) but with allowing enthusiasm to cloud judgements. – Especially when it is in judgements from people who should be setting scientific standards of objectivity.

    That is one of the reasons why it irritates me when muppets who should be presenting science, proclaim to the public that various spacecraft have “LEFT the SOLAR SYSTEM” when they have only crossed the Heliopause, and will not “leave the Solar-System” for centuries yet! No Earth made space craft has even crossed the Kuiper belt or reached the Oort Cloud yet!

    The vast numbers of stars and galaxies mean that the odds of life could be likely, but given that the Earth-Moon system and the Solar-System seem to be very rare forms, any life could be vast distances apart. There are “Goldilocks Zones in solar-systems and in (some types of) galaxies.
    It is a lot more complicated than just picking Earth-size planets in suitable temperature zones.



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  • We went from riding horse back to mapping the genome in 120 years. Why couldnt another civilisation that had their industrial revolution 100k years ago NOT be there. Especially if they didnt have the same ignorance instillng delusion of religion. Imagine where we would be if it wasnt for that.



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  • Waiting to see what SETI has to say about signals from that point. And if the next observation showed more than a few percent growth. If we watch the star vanish into a Dyson sphere then I think we might have to be convinced.



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  • As I read it, the astronomer, Mr Wright, was very clear when he said that this is the evidence that a large cluster of alien structures would create. And that it would be the last hypothesis offered. Clearly if he would have to guess, he would have several dozen other ideas first. But, perhaps when we have other evidence for alien mega-structures, that this type of evidence would be considered also. The direction of logic is flowing in a very sensible direction. Though perhaps the author is doing everyone a favor by keeping the civilians interested in doing science?



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  • You guys are focusing on the wrong issue here.
    You should focus on the fact that, if it really is aliens, they are a Type 2 civilization! And we are still building churches!
    If it is true, they are 1500 light years away, imagine how much they have evolved since then. We have a lot of catching up to do before they spot us (considering they might be dangerous, we don’t know). This shows once more how dangerous religion is for the survival of the human species. I know I tend to make it all seem about religion, but in the country I live in (Romania) they are building a mega-church that will cost more than 500 million euro and, at the same time, the hospitals are few and in poor condition and Evolution was removed from the curriculum!



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  • Alan4discussion
    Oct 15, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    KIC 8462852 is an F-type main-sequence star located in the constellation Cygnus approximately 454 parsecs (≈1481 light years) from Earth.

    This is an F-type main-sequence star, which is not quite in the same class as the Sun, and has a slightly different metalicity rating. (Metalicity is a key factor in planetary formation and in the possibilities of life.) It is however near enough to suggest that life’s chemistry dependent molecules may be present in this star and its planets.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_classification#Class_F

    F-type stars have strengthening H and K lines of Ca II. Neutral metals (Fe I, Cr I) beginning to gain on ionized metal lines by late F. Their spectra are characterized by the weaker hydrogen lines and ionized metals. Their color is white. About 1 in 33 (3.03%) of the main-sequence stars in the solar neighborhood are F-type stars.

    G-type stars, including the Sun[11] have prominent H and K lines of Ca II, which are most pronounced at G2. They have even weaker hydrogen lines than F, but along with the ionized metals, they have neutral metals. There is a prominent spike in the G band of CH molecules. Class G main-sequence stars make up about 7.5%, nearly one in thirteen, of the main-sequence stars in the solar neighborhood.

    Only high metalicity second or third generation stars containing significant percentages of heavier elements, are likely to have suitable chemistry for carbon (or silicon?) based life.

    They would probably also have to be in apart of the galaxy which is not subject to frequent bursts of intense radiation, or regular gravitational disturbances.



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  • Mark
    Oct 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, it might well be possible that James Dyson is an alien.

    Regardless of James Dyson’s expertise on “Vacuums”, it was in fact Freeman Dyson who invented the astronomical concept of the “Dyson Sphere”!

    Freeman Dyson was also a talented engineer and physicist who excelled in lateral thinking, and speculative futurist engineering ideas.

    Unfortunately he was not so good on wider environmental issues, pruning out wackiness from inspired speculations, taking on-board expert criticism, or recognising planetary realities.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Freeman_Dyson#Wackiness

    Dyson considers himself a non-denominational Christian and believes in non-overlapping magisteria; some of the material he has written on metaphysics, though, is much less Christian than it is reminiscent of various theories of quantum consciousness, panentheism, panpsychism, and other sorts of New Agey science woo.

    Dyson has succumbed to old age crank syndrome as well, becoming a global warming denier. However, he hasn’t done any actual criticizing of climate science besides dismissing the models as flawed and saying that if it is a real problem, we can easily cook up some super-tree to suck the carbon dioxide out of the air. Dyson’s support for deniers seems to be the result of wanting to stick it to the scientific man:

    My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me.”

    It could be, that some of his followers in SETI or in the media, have a similar attitude to realistic scientific criticism of their ideas, or of dismissal of ignorant speculations!



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  • Olgun
    Oct 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Could it be a couple of planets that have crashed into each other and smashed up?

    That is one possibility.
    There are various possibilities or combinations of possibilities.

    It could be there are numerous planetesimals which have not yet formed into planets. There could be a swam of asteroids or comets. There could be an assortment of eccentric orbits coming in and out of alignment with line of sight from Earth. There could be sun-spot activity.

    At that distance they have little to go on except variations in the brightness of the star.



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  • old-toy-boy
    Oct 18, 2015 at 4:53 am

    Question, what would our cloud of atrificial satalights, emmiting radio waves, look like from a few light years away?

    Probably too small to be visible! They are still having problems detecting solid Earth-size planets.



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  • phil rimmer
    Oct 18, 2015 at 6:42 am

    @Centauri dreams link – Comet fragments remain the most viable explanation, and that nearby M-dwarf (about 885 AU away from KIC 8462852) is certainly a candidate for the kind of system disrupter we are looking for. That leaves the comet explanation as the leading natural solution.

    {Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, is still 39,900,000,000,000 km away. (Or 271,000 AU.)}

    {At its closest point, Pluto is only 29 astronomical units from the Sun (4.4 billion km or 2.75 billion miles). And at its most distant, it can be 49 AU (7.29 billion km, or 4.53 billion miles) from the Sun.} http://www.universetoday.com/13891/distance-to-pluto/

    {The giant swarm of objects is now named the Oort Cloud, occupying space at a distance between 5,000 and 100,000 astronomical units. (One astronomical unit, or AU, is the mean distance of Earth from the sun: about 150 million km or 93 million miles.) – NASA}

    A nearby star regularly disrupting planetary and cometary orbits within this KIC 8462852 solar system, would be a contra indication for the existence of stable conditions in which life could evolve!



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  • Further to the above:-

    that nearby M-dwarf (about 885 AU away from KIC 8462852) is certainly a candidate for the kind of system disrupter we are looking for.

    If a analogous M-Dwarf star was in the proximity of our Solar-System, it would be passing through the Solar-System between the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper belt – both prime sources of comets – and consequential meteor showers bombarding planets!



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  • peter
    Oct 18, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Could the james webb telescope give us any more clues on this? if it ever will be deployd.

    Its higher resolution in its selected wavelengths may do so, but its time will be divided on a wide range of objectives.

    http://www.stsci.edu/jwst/science/goals
    The James Webb Space Telescope Science Working Group has developed the Science Requirements Document in order to describe the scientific objectives for the JWST mission and the performance capabilities necessary to meet them.
    The primary objectives fall into four science themes that span many orders of magnitude in time, space, and size.

    The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization

    The Assembly Of Galaxies

    The Birth Of Stars And Protoplanetary Systems

    Planetary Systems and The Origins Of Life



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  • a large cluster of objects

    (Monoliths?) The researchers say “mega-structure” would be the last guess, but can’t rule it out. Is this similar to RD’s 6.9 on 7 scale.

    The strange, mysterious hexagon at Saturn’s pole is getting better understood ~ American Astronomical Society ~



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  • Dyson has succumbed to old age crank syndrome as well, becoming a global warming denier.

    . . . . . . . .

    “My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me.”

    I am VERY unsympathetic to those, who having gained celebrity status (perhaps in some related field), using their reputations as a badge of authority to promote rubbish opinions, and resentment of informed criticism, on subjects about which they know nothing, or about which, despite their ignorance, they confidently entertain delusions of expertise!

    If ignoramuses (woo pedlars, YECs, AGW deniers etc.) are upset by having their ill-informed babblings dismissed by those experts who have spent years competently researching subjects, – too bad!!!



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  • Lloyd
    Oct 16, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    If we watch the star vanish into a Dyson sphere then I think we might have to be convinced.

    It is extremely unlikely that any civilisation could gather enough material from a planetary system around a main sequence star, to totally enclose that star in a Dyson Sphere!
    Interplanetary space is just too big to spread even extremely thin films of matter to this extent!

    http://www.noao.edu/education/peppercorn/pcmain.html
    The fact is that the planets are mighty small and the distances between them are almost ridiculously large.



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