The WTF star, or how the aliens broke the internet

As you guys probably know, a group of astronomers, led by Tabetha Bojayian have published a paper some days ago titled “Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 – Where’s the flux?”, better known as the alien mega-structure which is obviously a Dyson Sphere, welcome to our alien overlords. This immediately prompted all news editors to dash for their stock photos of aliens and designers were immediately sent to draw images of this Dyson Sphere, whatever that is, it has to be done fast, the machine needs to be fed.

As a matter of fact, this astronomic phenomenon is naught but one in a long line of fantastic discoveries which in no way ascribe intelligent life forms to them. What the scientists actually wrote was that the warmly named Why he flux (or WTF) star, or Tabby’s star, after Bojayian, has shown irregularly shaped, a periodic dips in flux during the past years. Their conclusion, written in that same paperis that their best idea is that this is because there was likely a cosmic collision somewhere around the star, thus sending the telescope strange data.

The WTF Star?

This didn’t prevent all astronomers, from hairdressers to journalists to real ones to weigh in on this debate. Jason Wright, Boyajian’s colleague who is the author of a paper which looks at the ways such exact mega-structures could exist, published two years ago argues how this looks like “something you would expect an alien civilization to build”. He is currently a part of a team which is attempting to incorporate a search for mega-structures in SETI’s search for alien lifeforms. He disagreed with Boyajian’sfindings, saying how they were “nice, but contrived”. And alien mega-structures are, obviously, not.

Fortunately for Wright and Bojayian, who have teamed up, the good people at SETI Institute are on the job, and their Seth Shostak has thrown his hat in the ring in his blog post on their website, announcing the start of their search. With a great deal of reservation, Shostak deems KIC 8462852 as suggestive of cosmic company.

Now, if we look at how many times we have cried wolf at phenomenon which was later seen as commonplace, one cries for science to clear things up! According to Ethan Siegel, a NASA columnist, in his article in Forbes, there are pretty much five astrophysical explanations of this event.

The first explanation might be connected with the age of the star. If the star is young, there could be a proto-planetary disk still revolving around it, full of dust and debris, thus blocking the light at intermittent levels. The secondis that there might be a series of giant planets with ring structures, such as our Saturn, thus effectively obfuscating the star from our point of view when passing near the star. The third plausible solution might be that the star has undergone a major mass-ejection event, and that there is a dense portion of that gas that creates these dips in an irregular fashion.

The last two explanations are the most likely for Siegel, who, according to the analysis of the received data concluded that we could be looking at an older and violent system, where planets collide, leaving large amounts of debris around their star. The other explanation, according to him, is that the observed phenomenon could be a result of large comet-like objects acting like swarms around the star, blocking light at intervals. These last two explanations correspond in many ways with the original conclusions of the team from Yale.

Aliens or not, the ground based Very Large Array Radio Telescope and Green Bank Telescope are to point their cross-hairs at WTF and try to get more data for analysis. All that is left is to do is wait for the media beast to jump on its’ next prey and wait for the results to come in.

Keep looking at the stars, friends, but don’t let anyone cly you while you’re at it.

I am a security policy expert, working as the Fundraising Coordinator at the Belgrade Security Forum. I have been in love with computer games and writing since I was a kid, when I started writing my first sci-fi short stories about aliens. I am a war nerd, a gun nut and a pacifist. Go figure.

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