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Surprising Science

The Mystery of Star KIC 8462852 Continues

Turns out, it’s not comets.

Just when we thought there wasn’t an alien megastructure circling star KIC 8462852, one researcher has stepped up to reignite our hope (kind of).

Last time we talked about the unknown structure circling the far-off star, scientists thought the cause for the light anomaly could be attributed to a swarm of comets.

“The scenario in which the dimming in the KIC 8462852 light curve were caused by the destruction of a family of comets remains the preferred explanation,” they wrote. However, they didn’t rule out the possibility for an alien super-structure circling the star.

Researcher Bradley Schaefer has ruled out a family of comets as the cause for the dimming light seen in the star. He wrote in a recent paper that the light from KIC 8462852 has been fading for the last 100 years — a trend that couldn’t be attributed to a swarm of comets blocking the star’s light.

“I do not see how it is possible for something like 648,000 giant comets to exist around one star, nor to have their orbits orchestrated so as to all pass in front of the star within the last century. So I take this century-long dimming as a strong argument against the comet-family hypothesis to explain the Kepler dips,” Schaefer concludes.

So, could it be an alien megastructure? Schaefer thinks not. He’s doubtful that any alien species would have the resources to cover a fifth of a star. If they did, the structure should radiate some kind of heat signature.

As for an explanation to this strange dimming of light from star KIC 8462852, Schaefer has none. There’s an explanation out there, it just requires more data to be uncovered.

Is there intelligent life out there in the universe? Theoretical physicist Brian Greene says it’s complicated.


Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: David McNew / Stringer / Getty


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