Aggressive SETI observations of Tabby’s star upcoming


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Breakthrough Listen, an effort to listen for radio signals from alien civilizations that, plans to devote significant time this year observing Tabby’s star to see if an alien mega-structures are causing that star’s unexplained dimming.

While Siemion and his colleagues are skeptical that the star’s unique behavior is a sign of an advanced civilization, they can’t not take a look. They’ve teamed up with UC Berkeley visiting astronomer Jason Wright and Tabetha Boyajian, the assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University for whom the star is named, to observe the star with state-of-the-art instruments the Breakthrough Listen team recently mounted on the 100-meter telescope. Wright is at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Pennsylvania State University.

The observations are scheduled for eight hours per night for three nights over the next two months, starting Wednesday evening, Oct. 26. Siemion, Wright and Boyajian are traveling to the Green Bank Observatory in rural West Virginia to start the observations, and expect to gather around 1 petabyte of data over hundreds of millions of individual radio channels.

10 comments

  • Localfluff

    It’s as good as any other star, it is a somewhat Sun like star (about 50% more massive). But I reiterate my suspicion that the dips are because of something wrong with the Kepler telescope or the data processing concerning that single small area of a few pixels on its big CCD which has observed the dips in that star’s light curve.

    Kepler is the only telescope which has seen it. Half a dozen dips during 4 years were a few to 22% deep and lasted days to weeks. Easily detected with a small ground based telescope. Now one year after the announcement, no one has reported any dips, and I bet that many small telescopes are looking at it constantly (when the season allows). The steady dimming of a few percent over 4 years were also based on data from Kepler. It does complicate the error which must be involved, but it is not an independent confirmation. The dimming over 100 years is based on historic photo plates from many observatories and seems complicated to do with good reliability.

    If the dimmings is a natural phenomena, we will have direct observations of new dips any day now. We should already have had. I bet that they’ll never be confirmed.

  • wayne

    Informative, recent, presentation from Jason Wright

    Frontiers in Artifact SETI:
    Waste Heat, Alien Megastructures & Tabbys Star
    – Jason Wright (ST 2016)
    https://youtu.be/XEDR-G2EDRM

    (Totally off-the-wall; This star is 1,400 light-years away; we have time to build the Invasion Fleet or the Planetary Defense Shield.)

  • LocalFluff wrote, “Kepler is the only telescope which has seen it.”

    I’ve pointed this out to you before but it obviously didn’t register. You are wrong. The inexplicable and unprecedented changes in the star’s brightness have been observed by multiple observations from multiple telescopes, including the historical record going back almost a hundred years.

  • wayne

    Localfluff–
    Definitely check out that video link if you have time. (he talks slow, you can speed up playback a bit.)
    >First 1/2 he (Wright) over-views current knowledge, limits, and techniques, for both optical & radio telescope observations & what the Kepler data showed, & the second 1/2 is specifically about Tabby’s Star and what they proposed to do using the Greenbank facility, which is now going forward.
    They address a few of the issues you touch upon, and what they would look for in the data as far as it related to SETI type stuff.

    (I’m not big on the “alien megastructure” concept myself, at-all, but there is something going on we don’t understand.)

  • LocalFluff

    I don’t know of any other telescope than Kepler1 observing any dip in Tabby’s star. The interpretations of photographic plates since 100 years introduces other dubies.

  • wayne

    (I’m getting above my pay-grade.)

    The historical-record paper, using analysis of the glass plate’s, is at:

    “KIC 8462852 Faded at an Average Rate of 0.165+-0.013 Magnitudes Per Century From 1890 To 1989”
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1601.03256

    Granted, there are problems associated with photographic plates, but he used a fairly large sample-size, across time, and something is not readily understandable.

    As for the Kepler data; I believe it was designed to detect “candidates” primarily & then a variety of methods (optical & radio) would be used to follow up in detail. It did & does have it’s technical limits, hence the Greenbank follow-up, with the alien-theme thrown in for PR of some sort, by someone, for some reason… but there is something going on.

    (That’s about all I know…. and it’s the “Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Observatory.” and we had a thread on that a few weeks ago.)

  • LocalFluff

    wayne Independent observations from ground based telescopes will give us the answer any day now. It’s been a year since discovery (by data mining archived observations made a few years ago) so it is certainly observed constantly. Either there are dips and dimming, or there’s not. It will be very obvious. One year and counting. No news yet.

  • Steve Earle

    Wayne said:
    “…Informative, recent, presentation from Jason Wright

    Frontiers in Artifact SETI:
    Waste Heat, Alien Megastructures & Tabbys Star
    – Jason Wright (ST 2016)
    https://youtu.be/XEDR-G2EDRM …”

    Thanks Wayne, as usual you have just the right link at just the right time :-)

    That is a very interesting video and answers many questions, as well as raising even more about Tabby’s Star

    I think I agree with the speaker, if it’s not an alien megastructure, then most likely it is due to some sort of moving dust or debris in the intervening space between us and the star….

  • LocalFluff

    wayne: Again. Fig. 2 in that paper about the 100 year dimming, shows three episodes rather than a dimming trend. From about 1900 to 1960 the brightness was relatively stable. Earlier it was higher, later it was lower. If it is astrophysical it seems to require sudden transitions between brightness states, which is completely foreign to stellar physics.

    The paper anyway disproves that there be transits of comets, it just isn’t possible in this quantity over 100 years. The ingress and egress profile of the dimmings already precluding transits of anything. So will the observations of one single telescope of one star out of 160,000 at the same time revolutionize astrophysics? I don’t think so. It will remain unconfirmed and slowly become forgotten.

  • Wayne

    Steve– I aim to please! (thank you)
    Ever since I bailed completely on FOX news last Fall, I have extra time to consume a lot of this type-of-material, and I am (hopefully) fairly picky.

    LocalFluff– yes, we shall see. (I’m no special pleader for this Star or the Tabitha-girl pushing it. There’s an element of showboating involved, that doesn’t sit 100% with me. If the SETI people are spending their own money however, more power to them.)

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