Comets And Not Aliens Behind Kepler Star Mystery
Putting a rather quick end to spew of rumors of alien life following the discovery of an unusual Kepler star, researchers have claimed the mysterious dimming of the star's light can be attributed to cold comets.
The Washington Post reports that the Kepler telescope identified the unusual diming of the light from the star KIC 8462852, which led to speculation that an alien megastructure around the star was harnessing its energy. While scientists did not discount the possibility, they said that the most likely explanation was a fast-moving planet or asteroid debris cloud dimming the star's light. However, all known techniques to detect such clouds revealed something else was at work, strengthening the speculation that aliens were at work.
In their study, researchers at Iowa State University proposed that debris from destroyed comets and not asteroids or planets is the most likely explanation. They used the infrared array camera on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to look at the star.
"The scenario invoking the fragmentation of a family of comets on a highly elliptical orbit is instead consistent with the lack of strong infrared excess found by our analysis," researchers wrote in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
And the aliens?
"We didn't look for that. We can't really say it is, or is not. But what the star is doing is very strange. It's interesting when you have phenomena like that - typically it means there's some new physical explanation or a new concept to be discovered," Massimo Marengo, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the university said in a press release.