KIC 8462852 'Tabby's Star' may be a star suffering indigestion from swallowing a planet

By Jamie Seidel

Debunked? New calculations show KIC 8462852 may be experiencing the after-effects of eating a planet. Photo / 123rf
Debunked? New calculations show KIC 8462852 may be experiencing the after-effects of eating a planet. Photo / 123rf

Speculation has swirled around KIC 8462852 (Othewise known as 'Tabby's Star') after an internet-based group of stargazers noticed its unusual behaviour in 2015.

It had been caught by the sky survey of the Kepler Space Telescope.

The star was flickering. Dramatically dimming. With no discernible pattern.

A follow-up study indicated it had been dimming steadily since the first photos of the star were taken in 1890. It was just the thing alien hunters had been looking for.

It was the suspected telltale of an enormously advanced civilisation. One that was building a vast, solar-system spanning solar array to harvest every photon of energy its star emitted.

A Dyson sphere.

Was this it?

Most likely not.

DELVE DEEPER: 'Tabby's' Star won't give up its dark secret

While other 'natural causes' explanations such as a comet swarm or an unusually fast spin have not explained KIC 8462852 dimming, researchers from the University of California, Berkley, feel they have finally pieced together the facts in a shape that fits.

The star is recovering from a 'bellyache'.

At some point in the past 10,000 or so years it swallowed a planet.

This inflamed the star's outer layers, causing it to shine briter than usual.
It's consumed most of its meal.

And its outer corona is beginning to cool again. That explains it steady dimming.

But the scraps of the meal are still swirling and falling into the star - causing both intermittent flare-ups and strange shadows.

EXPLORE MORE: A second Dyson sphere? EPIC 204278916 also flickers oddly

Their study, Secular dimming of KIC 8462852 following its consumption of a planet, was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society.

The team used established techniques for determining the behaviour of planets in their orbits.

When applied to KIC 8462852, the after-effects of a consumed planet conformed with the star's observed behaviour.

The calculations say a planet the mass of Jupiter, or a similar mass of moon-sized bodies, has been consumed. The researchers say a swarm of objects at least 1km wide would be the most easy fit given the size of the debris field needed to generate the flickering and dimming rate so far observed.

Reports News.com.au

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