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A Renewed Look at Boyajian’s Star

It was inevitable that KIC 8462852 would spawn a nickname, given the public attention given to this mystifying star, whose unusual lightcurves continue to challenge us. ‘Tabby’s Star’ is the moniker I’ve seen most frequently, but we now seem to be settling in on ‘Boyajian’s Star.’ It was Tabetha Boyajian (Louisiana State) whose work with the Planet Hunters citizen science project brought the story to light, and in keeping with astronomical naming conventions (Kapteyn’s Star, Barnard’s Star, etc.), I think the use of the surname is appropriate.


Planet Hunters works with Kepler data, looking for any dimming of the 150,000 monitored stars that may have gone undetected by the automated routines that hunt for repeating patterns. Boyajian’s Star cried out for analysis, dimming in odd ways that flagged not the kind of planetary transit across the face of a stellar disk that researchers expected but something else, something that would make the star dim by as much as 22 percent, and at irregular intervals. That led to a variety of hypotheses, the best known of which is a large group of comets, but we also have evidence that the star has been dimming at a steady rate.

Image: Tabetha Boyajian, looking up, presumably at Boyajian’s Star (caption swiped from Jason Wright’s page at Penn State).

With the story this unsettled, this morning’s energizing news is that Boyajian’s Star is now being examined by Breakthrough Listen. Working with Jason Wright, now a visiting astronomer at UC Berkeley, as well as Boyajian herself, the SETI project intends to devote hours of listening time on the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia to the star. You’ll recall that Breakthrough Listen is the $100 million SETI effort funded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and its founder, investor Yuri Milner. The Breakthrough Starshot project described often in these pages is also a Breakthrough Prize Foundation initiative.

As Andrew Siemion (director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and co-director of Breakthrough Listen) explains in the video above, the project has access to the most powerful SETI equipment available, meaning its scientists can study Boyajian’s Star at the highest levels of sensitivity across a wide range of possible signal types. But the Green Bank effort will hardly be the first, for Boyajian’s Star has already excited a great deal of interest, as Siemion explains:

“Everyone, every SETI program telescope, I mean every astronomer that has any kind of telescope in any wavelength that can see Tabby’s star has looked at it. It’s been looked at with Hubble, it’s been looked at with Keck, it’s been looked at in the infrared and radio and high energy, and every possible thing you can imagine, including a whole range of SETI experiments. Nothing has been found.”

In Green Bank, Breakthrough Listen has access to the largest fully steerable radio telescope on the planet. Observations are scheduled for eight hours per night for three nights in the next two months, the first having taken place on October 26. The plan is to gather as much as 1 petabyte of data over hundreds of millions of individual radio channels. Siemion describes a new SETI instrument that can examine “…many gigahertz of bandwidth simultaneously and many, many billions of different radio channels all at the same time so we can explore the radio spectrum very, very quickly.”

Breakthrough Listen will be observing using four different radio receivers on the Green Bank instrument in a frequency range from 1 to 12 GHz, a range beginning, Siemion says, at about where cell phones operate up through the frequencies used for satellite TV signals.


Image: The Green Bank Radio Telescope (GBT) focuses 2.3 acres of radio light. It is 148 meters tall, nearly as tall as the nearby mountains and much taller than pine trees in the national forest. The telescope is in a valley of the Allegheny mountains to shield the observations from radio interference. Credit: NRAO/AUI.

Yesterday’s live video chat from Green Bank with Tabetha Boyajian, Jason Wright and Andrew Siemion is now available online, with the trio answering questions about the ongoing study. Boyajian was asked as the session opened how many comets it would take to reproduce the effects being observed around KIC 8462852. The answer: Hundreds to thousands of “very giant comets” just to reproduce the last 30 days of the data.

The numbers give no particular credence to the idea that we may be looking at some kind of artificial construction project around Boyajian’s Star, but they do underline how mysterious are the processes, assuming they are natural, that are driving this phenomenon. Boyajian called the comet hypothesis ‘pretty outrageous,’ but went on to say that of all the explanations, it is the one she most favors, as all other explanations are likewise outrageous.

On that score, I want to mention Jason Wright’s paper, written with Steinn Sigurðsson at Penn State, looking at other possible solutions to the Boyajian’s Star puzzle. It’s particularly useful early on in a section devoted to the follow-up work that has occurred, including the SETI studies with the VERITAS gamma-ray observatory, the Allen Telescope Array and the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory, but also reprising the interesting controversy over the dimming of the star. If you need to catch up with Boyajian’s Star, this is the place.

Wright and Sigurðsson conclude that long-term dimming would not fit well with the comet hypothesis, leaving us still searching for an answer. What does work its way up the chain of plausibility? An unusually dense region of the interstellar medium or a chance alignment with a localized molecular cloud occurring between us and the star is in the mix. The latter might be a so-called ‘Bok globule,’ an isolated and dark nebula dense with dust and gas.

The comet hypothesis is still in play, but a number of other explanations are problematic:

Less compelling, but difficult to rule out, are intrinsic variations due to spots, a “return to normal” from a temporary brightening (due to, perhaps, a stellar merger) and a cloud of material in the outer solar system. We find instrumental effects, other intrinsic variation in Boyajian’s Star, and obscuration by a disk around an orbital companion to Boyajian’s Star very unlikely to be responsible.

Read the paper for the entire list, which includes, with plausibility listed as unclear, the idea of artificial structures (“Would find support if all natural hypotheses are ruled out, we detect signals, or if star suffers significant achromatic extinction.”) The paper is Wright and Sigurðsson, “Families of Plausible Solutions to the Puzzle of Boyajian’s Star,” accepted at the Astrophysical Journal (preprint). But see also Jason Wright’s 10-part popular summary on Boyajian’s Star, which goes through all the options.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • H. Floyd October 27, 2016, 11:21

    Breakthrough Listen. Now we’re talking.

  • Douglas F Dwyer October 27, 2016, 11:41

    There may be another way to examine the atmosphere of nearby stars and their planets. The occasional already recorded Fast Radio Burst could be regarded as a chirped Radar pulse. A steerable radio astronomy dish and receiver may be able use chirp compression and antenna gain to extract the reflected signal from beneath background noise. Signal processing should provide information about the reflecting bodies.

    • DJ Kaplan October 27, 2016, 12:35

      I’m sure that’s worth considering.

  • David Cummings October 27, 2016, 11:53
  • DJ Kaplan October 27, 2016, 12:33

    Regarding Siemion’s remark, “…it’s been looked at in the infrared and radio and high energy, and every possible thing you can imagine, including a whole range of SETI experiments. Nothing has been found.”
    Of course, some science journalists (and scientists) will look at this and decide that there is nothing out there. On the contrary: we’ve only just begun and access to time on Green Bank is an excellent start.

    What do you know, Cubs win the World Series, first woman in the White House; discovery of ET life would make a trifecta.

  • EricSECT October 27, 2016, 13:21

    Most plausible, per the J. Wright paper is a BOK/ISM object.
    This object might affect star’s around Tabby’s .

    Montet’s paper a while back (Tabby’s star overall dimming of about 3% over the Kepler mission) made the observation that a handful of reference/check/calibration stars also exhibited a dimming of about 1% (…and then Tabby’s took another unprecedented 2% nosedive at the end).

    WHERE in relation to Tabby’s Star are these reference stars? If they are close by Tabby’s then they may support the BOK/ISM hypothesis and even constrain it’s size, maybe speed, etc. One would imagine that some reference stars are near and some are not?

    I am looking for guidance from someone, how do I determine the KIC designator for stars near Tabby’s so I can go peak at the light-curves?

    • David Cummings October 27, 2016, 17:05

      “Most plausible, per the J. Wright paper is a BOK/ISM object.”

      I agree.

    • Robert G October 27, 2016, 18:38

      The recent Gaia data dump would presumably contain the set of close stars. I wonder if anyone has checked for statistical irregularities in the magnitudes/spectra of this set. Perhaps this might show up a cloud between us and it.

    • Harry R Ray October 28, 2016, 9:18

      A recent paper came out stating that ONE(albeit a BACKGROUND)star IS being affected by whatever is causing the MAJOR dips as Boyajian’s Star. This paper attributes ALL of the SMALLER dips in the Kepler lightcurve to this “mystery” star, and NOT Boyajian’s Star.

    • lechuga October 28, 2016, 9:38

      There are some listed in Schaefer’s paper that were on the same plate.

  • LocalFluff October 27, 2016, 13:29

    What telescopes have cponfirmed those 20% dips in brightness?
    Kepler is one telescope. What other telescopes have conformed it? It cannot be too hard for a small ground based telescope to discover a 20% dip in brightness of a star years after the alarm.

    So, is it real data, or just a failure of the Kepler telescope?

    • Ashley Baldwin October 27, 2016, 17:06

      A truly visionary telescope. Congratulations to Bill Borucki and the team . The beauty of Kepler and its huge advantage on Earth based telescopes ( or indeed space ) was being devoted to stare at one area of sky uninterrupted for years on end with nothing else to do but use its uber sensitive photometer to detect changes in stellar brightness over that hugely extended time and periodic variations within in . Perfect for KIC8462852 . Doing that from even space requires the devotion of a bespoke instrument as opposed to say general purpose Hubble or JWST . That applies to the ground too but with the large disadvantage of interruption in viewing via the day/night cycle along with an atmosphere with clouds and dust . This severely impedes the kind of long extended imaging required to turn up phenomena like KIC8462852 . Bradley Schaffer cleverly combined decades worth of digitised Harvard photographic images to offer extended imaging though with unavoidable interruptions and without the exquisite sensitivity and mission focus of Kepler above the atmosphere . It did show a longer period brightness drop though through its diligent and comprehensive work.

      There is clearly a need for prolonged sky surveys and obviously the 2024 ESA PLATO telescope will do this with a two and three year observation period of large areas of sky though generally nearer and brighter stars than the Kepler field but still with the tremendous sensitivity to brightness. Expect yet more interesting and unexpected findings never before encountered .

      In terms of Earth based viewing a way round the apparently inevitable day /night interruption could be achieved in one of two ways . Large networks of telescopes situated at different latitudes and longitudes around the globe to ensure round the clock imaging over continuous periods (the Las Cumbres network amongst others is building towards this )

      Alternatively building telescopes near the poles where there is obviously night periods lasting for months at a time and where the still cold “summer” temperature and dry air will allow viewing at longer infrared wavelengths even in periods of daylight and twilight. Expect more on this particularly which also has many other imaging advantages , approaching space in some wavelengths .

      • David Cummings October 28, 2016, 12:04

        The Kepler Telescope mission cost listed on the NASA website is $600 million.

        That is 3/1000-ths of 1% (.0000333) of the USA GDP for 2015.

        I know there are a lot of claims on federal spending, and there already is a huge deficit, but seriously, can’t we spend a few more thousands of a percent of GDP for a few more space telescopes? In the long run, what is more important than answering the kinds of questions that only space telescopes can answer?

        • ljk October 29, 2016, 12:20

          If Americans can willingly spend two billion dollars annually on chewing gum, then we can also spend a bit on important scientific instruments.


        • Ashley Baldwin October 31, 2016, 12:51

          The TMT and GMT come in at not much over a $billion. With adaptive optics giving near diffraction limited imaging and at high Strehl ratios too. Fully accessible /serviceable and upgradeable with decades long life expectancies and hugely superior apertures , surely the new generation of ground based telescopes represent great value too for visible to Mid infrared at least . Shorter and longer wavelengths ( till atmospherically transparent radio and submillimeter anyway ) need to go above the atmosphere at greater but unavoidable expense .

          The Keck telescopes and instruments all together cost much less than a Atlas V launcher . Telescope aperture used to double every fifty years but mirror segmentation and other lightweight strategies combined with adaprive optics delivered by massively increased computing power has altered the whole paradigm . And that’s before we consider that they haven’t even been built at the best viewing sites either , not by orders of magnitude from Antarctica. Not as accessible as Mauna Kea, but a less hostile an environs than space and infinitely more accessible via cheap plane or snow cat for long periods . The viewing isn’t too far short of space either in the key Near to mid infrared wavelengths . Food for thought .

  • RAS October 27, 2016, 13:47

    It amuses me somewhat that the alien explanation is dismiseed out of hand by many scientists whilst at the same time coming up with increasingly outrageous if not verging on the ludicrous natural explanations.

    • napier October 27, 2016, 16:01

      It’s not being dismissed out of hand by most scientists. The reason Tabby and Jason at the GBT is proof enough of that.

      • andy October 29, 2016, 4:53

        Don’t try and tell these “alien true believers” that they are not the next Galileo, telling the “obvious truth” that the establishment doesn’t want to hear. It doesn’t matter that their hypotheses verge on untestable (any confounding data can be handwaved away, maybe the aliens decided to do/not do X on a given day when the observations were being taken!), it must be that the scientists just unfairly dismiss these “Galileo wannabes” out of hand!

    • Ashley Baldwin October 27, 2016, 16:17

      I fully agree. Just about every know interstellar object has been implicated from comets , asteroids and various “clouds”. The Kepler team themselves believe it is the rubble left over from disrupted planetoids ( thanks to the discovery of ingested ” planetary pollutants ” being found in some white dwarf stars ).

      Ironically one rather more plausible explanation , a close multiple stellar system , hasn’t been mentioned despite the fact that contact/eclipsing binaries are the commonest cause of false positives for Kepler. One system of two close binaries orbiting each other and both orbited by a fifth star was found and the results not even published because another ( but rare ) five star system had also recently been found and published , so the Kepler findings weren’t deemed worth a publication by the discoverers . Classic example of negative publication bias. Not necessarily the cause of course but worth excluding at the least .

      • Andrew Broeker October 28, 2016, 7:44

        An eclipsing binary explanation absolutely was considered, but the light curves are both nonperiodic and incorrectly shaped.

    • Nam Nguyen October 27, 2016, 18:12

      I agree.

      • Ashley Baldwin October 30, 2016, 16:02

        Sorry, the exact information I received from Steve Howell at Kepler was that the star itself was a delta scuti variable ( presumably bringing a degree of periodicity ) which was orbited by a binary system and that those three in turn were orbited by yet another binary . Certainly not a straight forward answer if correct but I don’t think the answer to this will be straightforward , whatever it is. Much more plausible than cometary or planetoid debris in my not expert opinion though. These big long term surveys are expected to turn up novel serendipitous findings , that’s part of the appeal. Just wait till the LSST gets going in earnest .

    • Harry R Ray October 31, 2016, 9:17

      If they ARE as outrageous as you say they are, they will be disproved VERY QUICKLY! That’s how science works. EVERYTHING is disproved until the ONE FINAL CORRECT SOLUTION IS FOUND!

      • EricSECT October 31, 2016, 9:57

        I’m reading a gem of a book by Isaac Asimov, “Extraterrestrial Civilizations”, dated 1979.

        Here is a pertinent quote:
        “As long as human beings have existed, they have experienced things they could not explain. The more sophisticated a human being is, the more widely experienced, they more likely he or she is to expect the inexplicable and to greet it as an interesting challenge to be investigated soberly, if possible, and without jumping to conclusions. The rule is to seek out the simplest and most ordinary explanation consistent with the facts and allow oneself to be driven (with greater and greater reluctance) to the more complex and unusual when nothing else will do. And if one is left with no likely explanation at all, then it must be left there: the sophisticated observer has usually learned to live with uncertainty.”

        We are data starved with Tabby’s Star.

        That said, I still suggest the simplest solution to it’s weird behavior is that the nuclear fusion of hydrogen has sputtered out, the star is at the end of normal life and is in an unstable region, about to exit the main sequence.

  • ljk October 27, 2016, 14:56

    Can anyone identify the background stars in that photo of Tabetha Boyajian? Are we sure she’s looking at KIC 8675309? If she’s inside a planetarium, as I suspect, then the point is moot. :^)

  • Tom Mazanec October 27, 2016, 15:29

    Could there be a nebula filament between us and Boyagian’s Star?

    • Harry R Ray October 28, 2016, 9:22

      According to Jason Wright, this is a MORE PLAUSIBLE explanation than a Bok Globule, because, LO AND BEHOLD, the Veil Nebula IS very nearby.

  • Jim Strom October 27, 2016, 18:13

    “An unusually dense region of the interstellar medium or a chance alignment with a localized molecular cloud occurring between us and the star is in the mix.”

    How close would such a cloud have to be, to KIC 8462852, in order to intervene with only that one star, among the Keppler field of view?

    Also, no matter what explanation is settled on, if any, there will always be the question of why the phenomena is, by definition, a rare one, since only one of the 100k stars observed exhibited the phenomena. Well, actually, there are two phenomena now: the apparent relatively rapid dimming, and the odd transits. For that matter, is it even feasible for a dense cloud to produce a 20% dimming as per the star’s large transit-like dips?

  • Abe Hoekstra October 27, 2016, 19:21

    KID’s 8462852’s nickname is inappropriate.
    Tabetha Boyajian did not discover the star, neither found any of the weird features in the light curve.
    Sam Goodman found the first big eclipse, yours truly found the second one. The discussion can be found here on Planet Hunters: http://oldtalk.planethunters.org/…/discussions/DPH101e830
    Sam Goodman is planetsam, I am cappella.
    The star should be named after the one who found the first big eclipse, and that is Sam.

    • Zachary Crosby October 28, 2016, 0:01


      I agree with you, it shouldn’t be named after Tabetha Boyajian. She didn’t find it.

      How about Planet Hunters’ Star, or Hunters’ Star? That’s my name for it in my own mind when I’m thinking about it. Actually, my favorite name for it, and how I spell it in my own head, is Hunters Star, without the apostrophe. (Due to common usage, apostrophes fall of many popular names and geographical names where they should be included.)

      With a name like Hunters’ Star, you can both be recognized, as well as the others who independently found it. It has a great ring to it.


      • Harry R Ray October 28, 2016, 9:23

        Why not simply, The Flux Star?

    • Zachary Crosby October 28, 2016, 0:16

      P.S., I also very much enjoy the name Kepler’s Star in honor of the telescope that found it, even though that name appears to have been taken already by a supernova.

    • Sean Robert Meaney October 28, 2016, 1:50

      I guess Sam wasnt as mysterious and alluring a name as Tabby.
      I agree though…Sam got robbed. Sam’s Star? Or Hamster for shared credit?

      Seriously though…why dont you do a kickstarter to fund a KIC8462852 dedicated radio telescope observatory lifted by a zeppelin. It can orbit earth near the north pole reducing movement to a few miles an hour achieving twenty four hour observations.

    • Michael October 28, 2016, 3:02

      If it is a cloud in the line of sight I doubt any one could be naming the star as it has nothing to do with it. If it is something to do with the star then yes, but just finding something about the star without explaining what it is could be a problem in its naming.

    • ljk October 28, 2016, 9:32

      Will the International Astronomical Union (IAU) be making the final decision on the object’s “official” name? And if so, when?


      Maybe we should ask the building of the Dyson Shell what they call it. ;^)

    • Cambias October 28, 2016, 10:50

      I suspect you aren’t as “mediagenic.”

    • Rafik Bourne October 28, 2016, 23:19

      Is this the first discussion on Planet Hunters?

      It shows Copernicus123 as the first person to comment and say “bizarre peak – a giant transit” 6 years ago.
      This is well before planetsam made the comments “looks similar in some ways to heartbeats” and “KID 8462852”.

      It would be nice to know who was the first to comment on this star and give them due credit.

      As far as naming rights go –
      Is there a formal way these things are named?
      Who decides?
      Should it be named after (or by) the person who initially discovered/commented on the first dimming event, the person who did the research to bring this to the public’s attention, or the person who makes the discovery of what is actually going on (including a testable theory, fully detailed configuration of the system/cause(s) and predictions of future dimming events that prove to be correct)?

  • DJ Kaplan October 27, 2016, 19:37

    Has anyone built a model (or several!) of a putative Dyson sphere to see what their light signatures might look like?

    • Sean Robert Meaney October 28, 2016, 1:52

      It could be a dyson mesh with colonies on it
      The slow rotation might put cyclical data on cycles that dont reoccur for years.

    • andy October 28, 2016, 3:42

      Could be anything really. Just say the aliens have some weird set of aesthetics (or whatever other form of frantic handwaving you feel like) that they decided to put holes in their Dyson sphere just so, and you can likely match any light curve you want.

      As hypotheses go, aliens isn’t quite as utterly untestable as “god did it” but it really has very little predictive power given the difficulty of making observations of a system ~1500 light years away. Not surprising that more effort is being put into exploring natural explanations, which at least offer reasonable possibilities for falsifiability.

      • Ron S October 28, 2016, 9:35

        Being sensible is out of fashion at present. Now excuse me while I run off to buy a lottery ticket.

        • ljk October 28, 2016, 10:58

          Define “sensible” in a Universe that is 13.7 billion years old containing 10 trillion galaxies of hundreds of billions of stars each.

    • Harry R Ray October 28, 2016, 9:27

      The thing that fits UNJAGED AND ELEGENT “Q8” dip is either a ringworld or a COMPONENT of a Dyson Ring structure. Jose Solarzano DID do the modeling!

      • DJ Kaplan October 28, 2016, 16:32

        Who is Jose Solarzano?

        • Harry R Ray October 31, 2016, 10:10

          Jose Solarzano is a computer software designer who SPECIALIZES in software that analyses light-curves.

          • Harry R Ray October 31, 2016, 19:18

            ALL VISITORS TO THIS WEBSITE MUST READ HIS NEW POST ON THE SCIENCE 2.0 WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY!!!! “Where’s the FUZZ? The 0.88-Day Periodicity of Boyajian’s Star Goes Away at Key Times.” Then CROSS-REFERENCE his arguments with those of Wright and Siggurdsson! I am going to notify Dr Wright on his Astro-Wright website IMMEDIATELY! MY TAKE: Case for MEGASTRUCTURES strengthened SOMEWHAT but NOT considerably. FEEDBACK ASAP! Thanks.

            • EricSECT November 1, 2016, 10:01

              “Where’s the Fuzz?”, Jose Solorzano, just read it, lotsa good on-going conversations to follow on reddit about this star for those interested.

              Agree, argument for ETI is strengthened.

              But what conceivable material could survive NOT being vaporized and/or torn apart by tidal forces that close to the star (0.88 day orbit, about 1 star diameter away)? Or is it not physical material but a magnetic structure?

              And if so…. then what is the rotation period of the star if not 0.88 days? And OBTW, 0.88 days is right in the expected rotational period for the F3 star. Coincidence?

              The 0.88 day rotation is an input into the calculated value for the axial tilt of the star, which works out to be 70 degrees, so if that period is different, it will affect the CV, not sure how.

              • Harry R Ray November 2, 2016, 9:31

                Could a K3 civilization stop the rotation of a star ENTIRELY so that ONLY ONE HEMISPHERE FACES US AT ANY ONE TIME? If so,for what purpose? The only one I can think of is announcing their presence to ALL K0.5+(WE are a K0.7) civilizations in the galaxy!

                • EricSECT November 2, 2016, 15:24

                  When I asked about temperature and tidal influences on a physical structure that close to the star, I got this clarification: “….under an alien-civilization assumption it makes more sense that it’s some sort of structure with a feature that shows every 0.88 days.”

                  My adjusted mental picture of the thing is now this: It could be at ANY orbital distance from the star, but it’s structure (and/or structural components) repeats 0.88 days.

                  There is also talk (https://www.reddit.com/r/KIC8462852/comments/5ac9q6/wheres_the_fuzz/) at this Reddit thread for those interested, re: An increase in 0.88 day amplitude over the entire length of the Kepler data (and in consideration of the shape of this 0.88 day cycle, where the trough is more an un-natural “V” shape and not the expected “U” shape), and NOW…. if coincident with Montet’s dimming increase, both happening at d1200-ish… And lets not forget there is also a increase in near IR and concurrent decrease in visible light via AAVSO for the duration of their observations….This is startling! And seems to strengthen ETI.

                  • Harry R Ray November 3, 2016, 9:43

                    “…there is also an increase in near IR and concurrent decrease in visable light via AAVSO for the duration of their observations…”: GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS! The good news: This appears to finally ELIMINATE the concern of ET’s building megastructures COMPLETELY DEVOID IF IR. The bad news. This is EXACTLY what Wright et al PREDICT for a cometary debris field NOT ORBITING(i.e. somewhere BETWEEN us and BOYAJIAN’s Star)KIC8462852! I now greatly fear that they will COMPLETELY IGNORE Jose Solarzano”s work( I NOTIFIED Dr. Wright of it in a comment made on his “AstroW#right” website) because he is OUTSIDE the astronomical “community” and RUSH TO JUDGEMENT with a conclusion that there is a NATURAL scenario that now COMPLETELY EXPLAINS ALL OF THE DATA so that they can put this whole thing to rest.

              • Harry R Ray November 4, 2016, 9:27

                Again, this is VERY speculative, because the materials produced to pull this off would have to have properties that would appear to us to be magical, as Arthur C Clarke so exquisitely pointed out. However, if what is going on here is the construction of a Matrioshka Brain, this is EXACTLY where you would EXPECT the construction to START!

            • Harry R Ray November 1, 2016, 10:59

              CAVEAT: As I have done in the past, I am going out on a limb here, but; in my opinion, the limb has gotten a little thicker(and thus MORE stable)than I was up there before. HERE GOES! In the past, I have commented about the POSSIBILITY of RATIOS evident in the lightcurves serving as some mode of COMMUNICATION. The ABOVE MENTIONED post has ADDED TWO MORE to the mix. 1. D1205: “The interval between the main dip and its flanking dips is twice as long as expected”. Thus:2. 2. D1540: “…the smaller flanking dips are separated from the main dip by an interval that is approximately 3 times 0.88 days”. Thus: 3. Add these two integers to MY PREVIOUS CALCULATION resulting in the conclusion that the “Q8(day 792)’s” EGRESS takes almost exactly TWICE as long to complete as its INGRESS, and you start to get a clearer picture of POSSIBLE meaasging. EACH ONE OF THESE RATIOS CAN BE TAKEN AS A PURE CO-INCEDENCE. The CUMULATIVE, however, results in what I call a “co-incedence of co-incedences”. Not being a professional statistitian, I do not know what this means. Does any reader of this website KNOW the statistical signifigance of this?

              • Harry R Ray November 1, 2016, 11:03

                Sorry, I meant “messaging”, NOT “meaasging”. Apparently the spell-check doesn’t pick EVERYTHING up.

                • DJ Kaplan November 2, 2016, 12:35

                  Also you initially spelled his name “Solarzano” which is why Google didn’t pick it up. More spell-check and less caps lock, please.

              • Harry R Ray November 7, 2016, 12:24

                Jose Solorzano has just CONFIRMED the almost exactly 2 to 1 ratio in the “comments section” of his post The time of egress is 52% the time of ingress. Switch that around and you get 2.08 to 1. In regards to MY ABOVE QUESTION, I came across THIS on GOOGLE; One is a co-incidence, two is a trend, three is a pattern. HMMMMMMM!!!

                • Harry R Ray November 8, 2016, 18:50

                  Solorzano strikes again! The ratio of the D792 dip to the D1568 dip is almost exactly 2 to 1! If one is a co-incidence, two is a trend, and three is a pattern, what is 4? PROOF? HOWEVER: Don’t get your hopes up TOO MUCH, ET fans. This falls WAY SHORT OF THE SAGAN RULE(i.e extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proof)!

      • andy October 29, 2016, 3:54

        Ringworlds are both unstable (displacements in the plane of the ring result in forces that increase the displacement) and require fantasy materials with ludicrous structural properties. I’m going to say it’s not a ringworld.

        • DJ Kaplan October 31, 2016, 12:49

          For any hypothesized “Niven” ring or “Dyson” sphere, a fundamental characteristic is some sort of repeating pattern. So far, the data from Tabby’s star appears randomized. Although we can fantasize about a ET civilization with an apparent random pattern to its construction, the evidence (scientifically!) currently points away from a non-natural construction.

      • EricSECT October 29, 2016, 4:37

        That Q8 dip, aka d792 dip: This dimming event is so smooth, so deep, almost but not quite symmetrical, lasts eleven days (!) and almost but not quite exponential. It sure looks like some kind of instrument failure aboard Kepler. Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck.

        Now I realize that this instrument failure hypothesis has been exhaustively ruled out by the Kepler scientists and others with the proper background. And I am for sure a complete idiot wrt electronics. But there are many separate components and devices that are in the pipe-line between when an initial photon triggers the CCD and when the collected data it is finally transmitted back to home port: capacitors, cabling, amplifiers, memory storage, IC chips, etc, etc. I wonder if anyone has actually assembled of ALL the devices on a bench top and tried to duplicate the event? What does it take to duplicate this event? Is it something reasonable or not? Stray cosmic (charged) rays? Or some kind of grounding event that came in and then cleared?

        Constrained by the facts that this event was seen as thousands of readouts in multiple pixels and NOT seen in any other stars at the time, or since.

        Or can we just put this hypothesis to bed?

        • EricSECT November 7, 2016, 8:32

          This proposal and model, a blog by Eduard Hiendl below, considers star-lifting. We see the transit signature of a beam of material, fits the d792 curve the best so far.


          • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 10:32

            Heindel is now trying to get the “proposal and model” accepted in a scientific journal(which one, I do NOT know)! The PREPRINT is now up on ArXiv as ArXiv:1611.08368. I can’t wait for Jason Wright’s response(I’ll be checking his website and tweets constantly until he does respond)! MY TAKE: A little TOO MUCH “Aliens of the gaps” mode for me to take too seriously at this time, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

            • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 10:59

              Paul Gilster(and anyone ELSE who may be interested,which I ASSUME will be A WHOLE LOT OF READERS OF THIS WEBSITE): If you have not read the PDF ALREADY, it is ALSO up on http://www.voxcharta.org as “[astro-ph#41] A physically inspired model of Dip d792 and d1519 of the Kepler light curve seen at KIC8462852.”

              • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 14:12

                I also see a MAJOR PHYSICS PROBLEM to his starlifting scenario! The LENGTH of the beam is approximately two hundred fifty million miles! Therefore, if the beam is orbiting Boyajian’s Star in a normal “Keplerian orbit, the part of the beam where the “smoke” comes out would would have a near relativistic velocity, meaning the smoke coming out would FAR EXCEED ESCAPE VELOCITY! Therefire, to make this scenario work, the beam COULD NOT BE IN A STABLE KEPLERIAN ORBIT! I therefore believe that the energy needed to MAINTAIN the much slower velocity of the beam to keep it stable would have to be MAGNETIC in nature, and would cost SO MUCH TO PRODUCE that it would offset any ECONOMIC GAINS from retrieving and using the matter lifted from the star.

                • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 14:28

                  OOPS! The length of the beam is actually ONLY one hundred twenty five million miles, making the exit velocity of the smoke in a keplerian orbit considerably LESS than near-relativistic, but still FAR EXCEEDING ESCAPE VELOCITY!

                  • EricSECT November 28, 2016, 16:04

                    Hmmm… if you are lifting material off the star, seems you might want it to exceed escape velocity. But not by much. As little as possible, simple economics.

                    • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 18:54

                      ESPECIALLY if the FINAL DESTINATION of the starlifted material is a stellar COMPANION, like the M dwarf companion CANDIDATE, or even Makarov’s hypothetical “line of sight”(in front of or behind)companion star, if such a star DOES exist and is BOUND to Boyajian’s Star in a wide binary configuration.

                    • Harry R Ray December 1, 2016, 11:53

                      Anybody reading this,check out http://www.reddit.com/r/KIC8462852: Submitted 11 days ago by gdsacco: “Can we predict an increasing subsequent dip by multiplying Euler’s number?” MY TAKE: This APPEARS to be about 3-3.5 sigma(correct me if I am wrong), however, like the LHC 750 GeV fiasco, as MORE DATA comes in, this, too will probably go away, but; I HOPE I’M WRONG!!!

  • hiro October 28, 2016, 0:39

    WTF star sounds about right, easy to remember too. Objects orbiting around the main star in some kind of weird/exotic horseshoe shaped orbit seems…. right, especially the double crossing + other objects in L4/L5 would create thick enough barrier to block enough light from the star. Comet hypothesis assumes the almost exact timing factor which somehow happened to occur during the very short observation period.

    • EricSECT November 1, 2016, 5:52

      That horseshoe shaped orbit of a transiting something due to the gravitational influence of some other massive, unseen companion to Tabby’s is an interesting idea…. Someone should try and model it.

      Except that a companion that massive should have shown up in the radial velocity observations made on Tabby’s already taken. Not sure to what sensitivity the RV data is, but as they were looking for planets, I am assuming it was at least good enough to rule out something close-in and brown dwarf-ish in mass, so that data constrains any so far undetected companion.

      To what “double crossing” event do you refer to?

      Then there is the d1540 symmetrical triple dip, which by God, sure looks like a ginormous ringed planet embedded in a cloud of material. This cloud dropped luminosity 1% for 10 days, the duration of the triple dip, and the center “planet” peak dropped it another 2%, which I realize is too much expected dimming from a transiting planet, but once again…. it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…. etc.

  • Rubens Shmuel October 28, 2016, 6:40

    The phenomena of Tabby`s star made me think about interstellar optic communication methods . The dips of the Star`s light curve can bee seen through the galaxy. The Dips can/might be used as a beacon. If we have a way of CAUSING such dips, we can modulate information upon these dips. maybe in low data rate. ( Powerful lasers ? huge Shutter arrays )
    modulate useful information, that can be received by proper technology ( maybe ours in 10 years ?) . It will be of course a very subtle signal. If we can
    deduct already today planetary atmospheric spectrum from transit planets, we might use such method for communication in the local stellar sphere of the sun .

    • Harry R Ray October 28, 2016, 9:30

      Shadow Squares as part of a Ringworld should be able to be EASILY CONFIGURED TO DO JUST THAT!

      • ljk October 28, 2016, 10:57

        Mainstream astronomers are having a hard enough time publicly admitting the very concept of a Dyson Shell. Don’t make them have to accept the possibility of shadow squares, too. One new idea (well, new to them) per decade is tough enough.

        • andy October 30, 2016, 8:45

          Yes, astronomers are so unwilling to admit the concept of a Dyson sphere that Lacki (arXiv:1610.03219 [astro-ph.GA]) is able to cite multiple papers when discussing previous searches for Dyson spheres.

      • Rubens Shmuel October 29, 2016, 6:21

        I actually thought about LOW COST current technology huge dense cloud of JAXA IKAROS like solar sails in sub mercury orbit with LCD dynamic transparency panels, controlled per wireless signals and modulate useful information when transiting the main star in the wished target direction.. No need for Kardashev I technology or Dyson rings. The main obstacle ? stay sailing in orbit ( orientation control ) and find the target to transmit to.

      • DJ Kaplan November 2, 2016, 12:36

        Please share your simulation.

  • RAS October 28, 2016, 16:13

    If it goes into major dip again next year and they are then able to establish that it’s a solid object causing it through spectrographic observation is it case of all bets are off then?

  • Geoffrey Hillend October 28, 2016, 17:14

    Quote by Paul Gilster: ” An unusually dense region of the interstellar medium or a chance alignment with a localized molecular cloud occurring between us and the star is in the mix. The latter might be a so-called ‘Bok globule,’ an isolated and dark nebula dense with dust and gas. ”

    A localized molecular cloud might have a radio frequency that can reveal it’s chemical composition since each molecule has a distinct, specific frequency and radio spectral line, and I wonder if it can be detected by the Green Bank Radio telescope or radio baseline astronomy? What about temperature profile from any radio waves coming from the direction of KIC 8462852? What about radio wave polarization and non polarization? Have they really carefully analyzed all the data from the full of the electromagnetic radiation coming from Boyajian’s Star? It’s how the data is looked at that makes a difference and I doubt we have tried everything. What about the radial velocity method and visible light doppler shift?

  • Geoffrey Hillend October 29, 2016, 17:12

    Dark nebulae are composed of cosmic dust and the CO (carbon monoxide) molecules are the easiest to observe for even distances of several thousand parsecs with radio. P 241. The Milky Way, 5th ed., Bok and Bok. There also should some reddening of the star light though as well as dimming. P 237, same source. Maybe they will find that molecule.

  • Harold Daughety October 30, 2016, 1:21

    The only things that are certain are the laws of physics. Dyson spheres, ring worlds and Kardashev technology levels are products of human imagination and are not plausible explanations for the observed phenomena, no more so than is magic. These things are nonproductive diversions from the task at hand.

  • Cyril October 30, 2016, 4:21

    I wonder what ALMA or the Square Kilometer Array would show us.

    • Harry R Ray October 31, 2016, 10:13

      As I have commented on MANY TIMES, ALMA is TOO FAR SOUTH TO BE ABLE TO OBSERVE KIC8462852!

  • ljk October 31, 2016, 8:17

    Yeah NOW that it’s cool to do so. Same thing will happen once the pioneers to endured all sorts of derision and ridicule find actual alien life, then everyone else will say how they knew it all along and some will of course say they thought of it and/or discovered them first.

  • ljk October 31, 2016, 9:56
    • Harry R Ray October 31, 2016, 16:21

      A BIT OT, but what the heck. The authors came to the conclusion that the HAT-P 11-b radio signal probably WASN’T a result of lightning, but ALMOST CERTAINLY was somehow connected to the PLANET(i.e. NOT the star or background noise due to it’s CESSATION and then REAPPEARANCE right at and then right after SECONDARY ECLIPSE! MY TAKE: MOST LIKELY produced by magnetic re-connection of magnetic field lines BETWEEN the star and planet, although the authors argue(but not too vehemently)against that. Please see my(HOPED to soon appear) comment about detecting lightning on Proxima b in the comment section of “Are Proxima b-like planets water worlds?”

      • Harry R Ray November 2, 2016, 9:41

        HAT-P 11b”s secondary eclipse’s TIMING INTERVALS have just been extracted from Kepler light curves of HAT-P 11 with EXTREME PRECISION! This should help the authors of the “lightning” paper PROVE BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT(or NOT) that whatever it was, it DID come from the planet, and NOT either the star or the background noise.

  • Geoffrey Hillend October 31, 2016, 16:33

    Radio waves from lightning 10,000 times stronger than Earths lightning. Very interesting. I didn’t think lightning could travel that far but with that kind of electric power it makes sense. It doesn’t explain the dimming of Boyajian’s star though.

    The Dyson sphere idea came out in 1937 which is before we had space travel and nuclear power and fusion. Solar cells can provide our power but ultimately we will never have to rely on them alone for power since they are too inefficient to move use into a higher number class or type of technological civilization, so any extremely advanced ET civilization would not need them as well. Consequently the Dyson sphere idea is theoretically obsolete even by today’s standards. The cost for building it is too high since it takes too much metal etc to make it. All we have to do is wait for technological advancements for a more efficient technology like fusion etc. I think it is a mistake to think a technologically advanced civilization has to make everything huge to have high energy.

    • ljk November 4, 2016, 14:23

      Folks here tend to keep thinking of Dyson Shells/Swarms/Spheres in terms of logical and practical reasons for existing. While those can be valid points, as such structures are certainly nothing simple to make happen even if you are advanced, we should also consider the possibility that alien minds may do things for alien reasons, or if they are burdened with rulers such as we have had throughout our history, then we can really assume sensible logic to get thrown out the door.

      What if Dyson Shells are made as a show of power? Stalin had a vast rail system built across the Siberian tundra, which cost thousands of lives and many, many rubles, all for a show of power. It was essentially useless upon completion, but that didn’t matter. A more famous example is the Great Wall of China. Sure, the PR folks said it was for keeping out the Mongol hordes, but it worked even better as a physical way to demonstrate the might of the Empire over its neighbors. It too cost lots of money and many lives, all so an Emperor could have a really big, long stone wall across his northern “yard”.

      Dare I say even Project Apollo could fall into this category? If the real point of exploring Earth’s moon was for science, then a series of robotic probes would have accomplished the job and in many ways did for both the USA and USSR. However, an American President who was struggling with his political popularity – especially after a failed military coup against an unruly island neighbor who loved cigars – needed a big gesture to take the public’s mind off his troubles, and placing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth fit the bill nicely during the Cold War. Yes, real lunar science was done with Apollo and we did learn a lot of spaceflight engineering too, but if we just wanted to know the Moon scientifically, a small fleet of cheaper robots would have been enough.

      There is another reason for Dyson Shells which many still often forget because, just like with SETI being done mostly in the radio realm, they are stuck on the megastructure being made by and for humans or other similar organic beings. Dyson Shells might also exist not as a really big place for tiny organics but as the literal mind and body of vast Artilects:


      They would also make for a devastating superweapon:



      Yes these ideas could also be wrong, but I want us to think outside the “it has to be logical or rational or it doesn’t exist” box, because if you really think about it, existence itself on a fundamental level seems absurd (just ask Jean Paul Sartre). Throw some truly alien minds (I mean alien alien, not Star Trek alien) and who knows what may be going on out there.

      Tabby’s Star has surprised us and even concerned some folks. Strange as this star is, I don’t think we have seen anything yet.

  • ljk November 1, 2016, 11:04

    The newest and largest single dish radio telescope on Earth just joined in to examine Tabby’s Star for ETI:


  • Michael November 1, 2016, 14:51

    I still feel it is planet/moons with material ejection going on, just have to wait and see. Even if this turns out to be mundane a lot of science was used which refines their use for future work. I got a period of around 24.175, not far off 24.2

  • DJ Kaplan November 2, 2016, 12:36

    I don’t know if any of these theories are going to be testable at all. So we may never know.

  • ljk November 3, 2016, 9:05
  • ljk November 4, 2016, 17:19

    Will the Arecibo radio observatory be able to participate in examining Tabby’s Star? Will be around at all in the near future?


    Arecibo may be old and worn and smaller than China’s brand new shiny and much bigger FAST radio telescope, but we need more than one giant dish on this planet examining the heavens, especially having them on either side of the globe.

    People and organizations spend far more on much less all the time, why not a few relatively measly dollars for a legendary scientific instrument that has done so much science for so long, including both milestone SETI and METI programs.

  • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 12:01

    Boyajian’s Star was just RE- OBSERVED by ATA on the day after Thanksgiving! Could this be a FOLLOW-UP dictated by PROTOCALL based on the recent Green Bank observations? Probably not, but who knows?

    • ljk November 28, 2016, 14:54

      Do you have sources with information we can all view? Thank you.

      • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 18:57

        I found out about it on the SETI Institute Twitter page.

        • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 19:14

          MORE DETAILS: Principal investigator-Jon Roberts(it was HIS tweet from which I found out about this): Friday 25 November, 2016 19 30:58 UTC. Sets at 03;00 Saturday 26 November, 2016 UTC.

  • Harry R Ray November 28, 2016, 21:05

    From KIC8462852 Reddit: “The Allen Telescope Array is Now Looking at Boyajian’s Star, has a *Tentative* Signal. Submitted 3 days ago by Ross1_6 “I just checked the Allen Telescope Array. One of the three beams was pointed at Boyajian’s Star. They were in ‘on 2’ signal status at 19:41 hours Universal Time. That means that something, perhaps interference, was picked up. They steered the telescope away from the star, and the signal went away, which argues against interference. Then they pointed the scope back at KIC8462852.”

    • Harry R Ray November 29, 2016, 10:23

      The observing run STARTS at 19;30 Universal Time, and they are ALREADY IN ‘on 2’ BY 19:41 Universal Time? Could they have had ADVANCE NOTICE of an interesting frequency(or a GROUP of interesting frequencies)as a result of Green Bank observations?

  • ljk March 16, 2017, 16:18

    Yes this is from 2016 and yes the star in question is a mere 5 million years old, but what does this say for Tabby’s Star?


    Astronomers discovered a second ‘alien megastructure’ star that’s even stranger than KIC 8462852