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22 Nov, 2018 14:08

Alien megastructure 2.0? Astronomers hunt for source of old star’s strange behavior

Alien megastructure 2.0? Astronomers hunt for source of old star’s strange behavior

An old star in the inner Milky Way has sparked a celestial investigation after baffled astronomers noted that something seems to be blocking it from our sight. Possible explanations range from alien megastructures to space dust.

The strange flickering of star VVV-WIT-07 has been confounding scientists since it was first spotted by a team of astronomers in 2012. The researchers watched the star through the VISTA telescope in Chile and saw it dimming for 11 days before it appeared to fade to almost nothing over the following month.

Roberto Saito of the Federal University of Santa Catarina first spotted the star, and the team’s findings have recently been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The star’s mysterious dimming suggests an object may have been blocking it and provides a mystery for baffled astronomers who can’t explain what’s causing the apparent eclipse.

“It’s got to be over a million kilometers wide, and very dense to be able to block that much starlight,” astrophysicist Eric Mamajek told Scientific American. Mamajek discovered the infamous J1407 star that is believed to to be obscured by a planet-sized object with rings 200 times bigger than Saturn’s.

Saito’s research draws comparisons between VVV-WIT-07 and J1407, as well as Tabby’s Star.

Tabby’s Star, or KIC 8462852, has long inspired theories that its light is being dimmed by an alien megastructure orbiting it. In March, new data collected on the star suggested the dimming may have been caused by dust, as different colors are being blocked at different intensities.

While the flickering effect observed in VVV-WIT-07 may be caused by some sort of space dust cluster, nothing has been ruled out yet. Astronomers will continue to observe the celestial object in the hope of gathering more information about it and the mysterious object blocking its light.

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