A group of astronomers from the US, the Netherlands, Australia and Greece have conducted a new investigation into the mysterious KIC 8462852 star, also humorously (and perhaps appropriately) known as the WTF Star, in an attempt to get a handle on the causes of odd fluctuations in the intensity of the light it projects.
The study involved scanning the celestial object for traces of laser radiation of more than 24 megawatts, the lower limit of laser light detectable by the Lick Observatory's Automated Planet Finder telescope in Mount Hamilton, California, in a bid to find alien life.
According to the researchers' thinking, 24 megawatts+ is a level of laser technology available to humanity. Therefore, they posited, if an advanced alien civilisation exists on KIC 8462852 and it has lasers, it might be using them in a way which we could detect.
As for the remaining five candidates, these "can all be explained as either cosmic ray hits, stellar emission lines or atmospheric air glow emission lines," according to the researchers.
In other words, the astronomers found, the signals probably aren't alien in origin. However, they added that their work has helped to lay the foundation for further research into odd signatures possibly associated with alien technologies.
"Other than a laser beacon deliberately directed by an extraterrestrial civilisation towards Earth, it is to be expected that extraterrestrial laser signals would be transient in nature. This is due to likely relative motion of an emitter with respect to Earth, and conceivably the likely use cases for high powered lasers (for example: communication, spaceship propulsion, military). To maximise the probability of detecting extraterrestrial laser signals, a variety of stellar types and the stars most nearby the sun should be observed and their spectra searched for laser lines," researchers concluded.
The researchers' paper has been accepted for publication by the Publication of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific academic journal, and can be found here.