Last October, NASA’s Kepler telescope made an unusual observation of a star 1,500 light-years from Earth. By measuring the dimming of the light around KIC 8462852, scientists have found that there is something odd circling the planet.
While some early potential explanations include comets, distortion, and space debris, none have provided a completely satisfactory solution. Another possible answer – farfetched, but not technically disproven yet – is that the star is engulfed by an artificial structure called a Dyson sphere, which could theoretically absorb energy from the star for an extraterrestrial civilization.
Like we said, farfetched.
Still, the star has captured the public’s imagination, and thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign, we may get some answers.
Started by Yale astronomer Tabby Boyajian last month, the crowdfunding campaign has already met its goal, raising over $100,000.
The money will support a year-long study into KIC 8462852, analyzing the star’s luminosity with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network.
Of course, even if – and that’s a big, BIG if – the Dyson sphere theory turns out to be true, that doesn’t necessarily mean we will have found life. Given the distance of the star, it will have taken 1,500 years for the light to reach Earth, meaning that we can only observe the star as it was 1,500 years ago.
The civilization could be long gone, or it could be even more advanced than we could possibly imagine.