Update on Tabby’s Star, i.e. the “Alien Megastructure Star”

A star displaying peculiar light patterns was first noticed in Kepler space telescope data by a group of citizen scientists working in the Planet Hunters program. Their work convinced astronomer Tabetha Boyajian to investigate star KIC 8462852, which is also known as Tabby’s Star or the WTF star (‘Where’s the Flux?’), in more detail. The investigation by her group found the star to be quite an oddity. Boyajian is interviewed about it in this article: How Astronomers Plan to Solve the Mystery of the “Alien Megastructure Star” – Out There/Discover Magazine

Tabby’s Star is so unusual that a few scientists, including Boyajian’s colleague Jason Wright, raised the possibility that its flickering is not natural but is due to the presence of an enormous artificial construct. That speculation quickly lent KIC 8462852 another nickname, the “alien megastructure star,” and prompted a flood of breathless news stories; it even got a shout out on Saturday Night Live. Boyajian’s subsequent TED lecture drew even more attention to her star.

To obtain telescope time to study the star continuously for at least a year, a successful Kickstarter campaign raised $107,421: The most mysterious star in the Galaxy by Tabetha Boyajian — Kickstarter.

From the interview:

The plan is to observe the star through a full calendar year at the [private] Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT). We  have the funds to cover that, and a little bit more. We’re observing now, running off time LCOGT has gifted us, 200 hours there. At the end of the summer, when the Kickstarter funds get transferred, we’ll be able to set up the process through August and probably through December of 2017.

We want to see the star’s brightness dip again—it’s as simple as that. When it dips, how long the dips are, if there are many dips, all of the stuff relevant to any theory that’s on the table. Also, we’ll be able to get more detailed observations of whatever stuff is passing in front of the star, because we have a system to notify us when it’s not at its normal brightness. LCOGT is set up so we can get a spectrum as soon as that trigger happens, and also more intense observations.

These two videos from the Kickstarter campaign describe the star and their research plan:


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