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Mysterious dimming of Tabby's Star may be caused by dust

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:21 am

Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:27 pm

One of the most mysterious stellar objects may be revealing some of its secrets at last.

Called KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star, or Tabby's Star, the object has experienced unusual dips in brightness—NASA's Kepler space telescope even observed dimming of up to 20 percent over a matter of days. In addition, the star has had much subtler but longer-term enigmatic dimming trends, with one continuing today. None of this behavior is expected for normal stars slightly more massive than the Sun. Speculations have included the idea that the star swallowed a planet that it is unstable, and a more imaginative theory involves a giant contraption or "megastructure" built by an advanced civilization, which could be harvesting energy from the star and causing its brightness to decrease.

A new study using NASA's Spitzer and Swift missions, as well as the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory, suggests that the cause of the dimming over long periods is likely an uneven dust cloud moving around the star. This flies in the face of the "alien megastructure" idea and the other more exotic speculations.

The smoking gun: Researchers found less dimming in the infrared light from the star than in its ultraviolet light. Any object larger than dust particles would dim all wavelengths of light equally when passing in front of Tabby's Star.

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Owlscrying
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:21 am

Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:31 pm

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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This illustration depicts a hypothetical uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star or Tabby's Star. Astronomers have found the dimming of the star over long periods appears to be weaker at longer infrared wavelengths of light and stronger at shorter ultraviolet wavelengths. Such reddening is characteristic of dust particles and inconsistent with more fanciful "alien megastructure" concepts, which would evenly dim all wavelengths of light. By studying observations from NASA's Spitzer and Swift telescopes, as well as the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory, the researchers have been able to better constrain the size of the dust particles. This places them within the range found in dust disks orbiting stars, and larger than the particles typically found in interstellar dust. The system is portrayed with a couple of comets, consistent with previous studies that have found evidence for cometary activity within the system.

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Owlscrying
Posts: 1377
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:21 am

Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:36 pm

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Credit: Benjamin Shappee

An inconspicuous star—KIC 8462852—harbors a great mystery. This ASAS-SN image is just a small portion of the sky, but shows how Tabby's star is one of millions.

[url=https://phys.org/news/2017-10-milky-mos ... found.htmlSource / Image Courtesy

 
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