Computer modeling suggests light fluctuations at Tabby’s Star are natural


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A computer analysis of the light fluctuations of Tabby’s Star suggest to astronomers that the changes are not caused by objects blocking the star (such as an alien Dyson Sphere under construction) but are instead natural variations caused as the star evolves.

This conclusion is decidedly uncertain. They do not know the nature of this stellar evolution. And they are applying avalanche models to the star to come to this conclusion.

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7 comments

  • wayne

    Very interesting.
    (what? No Aliens!)

    Avalanche Statistics Identify Intrinsic Stellar Processes near Criticality in KIC 8462852
    http://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.261101

  • LocalFluff

    My very amateurish impression is that this is about statistical explanation without a specific theory about stellar physics. Statistically the dimmings are similar to phenomena in apparently unrelated physics. One needs a degree in something as daunting as statistical physics to make any judgement about that. But the star in question is not a star so young or old, nor so small or large, that it should experience any such large disequilibria.

    Within Tabby’s star, 1,250 ly away, there should be about 30 million stars (it is still within the galactic disk of about 10,000 ly thickness, so the distribution of stars should be roughly even). Within that distance, 20% dimmings (of that large a star) are easy to see even with amateur telescopes well used. So I think there remains a question of why nothing similar has been seen before. Or after! This was discovered in older data in September 2015. Still 15 months later no similar dimming has been found, even though now intensely being looked for.

    You know I think that it is some kind of malfunction in the process of observation itself. Until such a dimming is independently confirmed. (Perhaps it never will be, and no one will ever know what happened.)

  • wayne

    LocalFluff–
    I only play an astrophysicist on the interweb;

    There is something going with this star, I believe that’s a done deal, from an observational standpoint.
    As to what is responsible, they really don’t know, to the degree & completeness, we would all like. (and that’s ok)

    For our ignorant college student friends at UPenn:

    Cassius:
    “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

  • wayne

    Tabetha Boyajian- KIC 8462852
    TED Talk- April 2016
    https://youtu.be/gypAjPp6eps
    (13:46)

  • Maurice

    i have read most of the reports, and yes also that TED talk…let me congratulate “tabby” with her sales skills, she definitively knows where the butter comes from for her bread.. bravo. Now, playing jody foster in contact will get you money, for a while, until the next ooh aah comes along. great. Even Jody Foster was 3 months away from having her telescope rights yanked
    by angry main-sequence-stargeezers.

    The science of variable stars is not well developed as it isn’t really as sexy as chasing black holes, so maybe this sheds light (on the main sequence or off of it) on a class of stars that has been sort-of neglected.

    Instead of getting more telescope time, maybe the solution is to finally create an open source space-based platform, big enough to have multiple types of telescopes (visible light, ultra violet, etc etc etc). should be designed in india, launched by one of their candles at a pennies-on-the-dollar model, and ran by the world on a “what can we disrupt today model”.

    ‘mfraid the current models for science are so welded to the government teat that only something really revolutionary and dirt cheap will upset it … again, kudos to ms tabby, maybe we all should become clickbait scientists.

  • Wayne

    Maurice–
    Excellent stuff! (except for the “ran by the world” part.)

    >Personally, to the extent I care, I dislike Miss Boyajian. (never was fond of Carl Sagan, either.)
    And those TED talks– huge racket; try getting into a TED talk, without buying a ticket.

    That being said– there is something going on with KIC 8462852. As for all the fanciful speculation surrounding the star–“they make it up, wholesale.”

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “You know I think that it is some kind of malfunction in the process of observation itself.

    If it were a malfunction, then other stars in the field of view of each observation would have shown similar anomalies. Because this has been seen repeatedly over time, on only this one star, with observations from different telescopes suggests that something rare or temporary is happening here rather than a systematic malfunction of the instruments that observe it and only when they observe it.

    I think that the main takeaway from this article is that space aliens need not be involved in order to explain the observations. It is clear that star interiors are still a mystery. From the article:
    “In other words we would use the statistics of the noise in the light curves in these stars to learn something about the dynamical processes that are going on inside the star.”

    I worked for a solar astrophysics lab, and figuring out the interior of the sun was one of their missions.

    Which reminds me:

    Merry Christmas,
    Happy Hanukkah,
    Joyous Kwanzaa,
    Yuletide tidings,

    and for any readers who are former colleagues at the solar astrophysics lab, or current employees:
    Happy Winter Solstice, I hope this year’s party was fun.

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