Why astronomers are scrambling to observe the weirdest star in the galaxy this weekend

May 23, 2017

by Loren Grush

It was early Thursday morning when astronomer Matt Muterspaugh noticed something strange with the star he had been observing for the last year and a half. Telescope data taken from the night before showed that the brightness of the star had dipped significantly. He contacted other astronomers who had also been observing the same star, to let them know what he had seen and to keep an eye on it for any more changes. Then by the following morning, the star had dimmed even more.

That’s when he and the others knew it was time to signal the alarm: the weirdest star in our galaxy was acting weird again. And it was time for everyone to look at this distant celestial body — to figure out what the hell is going on. “As far as I can tell, every telescope that can look at it right now is looking at it right now,” Muterspaugh, a professor at Tennessee State University, tells The Verge.

The star Muterspaugh has been looking at is KIC 8462852, though it’s also known as Tabby’s Star. That’s because Tabetha Boyajian, an astronomer at Louisiana State University, first noticed this strange star a couple years ago after looking through archive data from Kepler — a NASA spacecraft that’s been hunting for planets that exist outside of our Solar System. Boyajian was part of a citizen science project called Planet Hunters, where volunteers can analyze Kepler data to look for planets, and they alerted her to the wonky star. “Our users flagged it to be something really interesting,” Boyajian tells The Verge. “They came to the science team and asked, ‘What is this? That’s not a planet clearly.’”

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.