We’re STILL Not Saying It’s Aliens, But Tabby’s Star Is Getting Weirder
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We’re STILL Not Saying It’s Aliens, But Tabby’s Star Is Getting Weirder


KIC 8462852 probably sounds like a string
of random letters and numbers to you but I’m willing to bet if you’ve watched this channel
long enough, you’ve heard it before. It’s the name of a star, also known as Tabby’s
Star, and it set the internet ablaze a couple years back when it dimmed in ways nobody could
really explain, unless you pinned it on aliens building massive structures to power their
civilization. Since then though we haven’t seen the star’s
light fade, and so public interest in it did. But in April of 2017 light levels started
dropping again, giving astronomers new clues to come up with new ideas. Are any more compelling than a giant energy-harvesting
megastructure built by aliens? I’ll let you be the judge of that. First, a refresher on why Tabby’s star is
so mysterious. In 2011 the Kepler Space Telescope observed
its light dimmed briefly by 15 percent. Almost two years later, it temporarily dimmed
again, this time by about 22 percent. Often a drop in a star’s light levels is
a sign that a planet is passing in front of it. But even a planet the size of Jupiter would
only block about 1% of the light coming from a star like this. And the dimmings caused by planetary transits
should be symmetrical and at regular periods, but these aren’t. They’re erratic and all over the place,
and can last anywhere from 5 to 80 days. What we have on our hands gang, is a mystery. An early explanation from 2015 was comets
were knocked from their orbit by a nearby star and as they plummeted towards Tabby’s
star, they collided and created a debris cloud. At the time it was the best fitting solution
that didn’t involve a vogon constructor fleet. Since that idea was first put forward, astronomers
have taken a look at data going all the way back to the 90’s –the 1890’s that is–
and it turns out the star isn’t as bright as it used to be. As you’d expect from a star this uncooperative,
it’s faded erratically, but overall it’s dimmed 16% in the last century. Comets can’t really explain the long term
dimming, so that idea is pretty much out. But maybe the slow fade is evidence of something
else. Some of the first explanations proposed dust
from early planets forming, could be the cause, but Tabby’s star is too old to just be forming
planets now. One idea put forward in 2016 is kind of the
opposite; instead of a new planet, what we’re seeing is the aftermath of an ex-planet. One that crashed into the star about 10,000
years ago, causing a flare up that the star is slowly coming down from, like a long drawn
out belch. That could account for the long term evidence,
while orbiting remnants of the planet cause the more dramatic short term drops in brightness. After this latest dip, yet another idea has
emerged. What if it’s a really really big planet
and some buddies? Trojan asteroids are rocky bodies that share
the orbit of a planet. They hang out in Lagrange points where the
gravitational forces between the star and planet are balanced. Jupiter has big groups of trojan asteroids
so we’ve seen the phenomenon happen before. Maybe the Trojans caused those erratic dips,
and the massive planet caused some of the more regular ones. For this explanation the planet would have
to be about 5 times the size of Jupiter though, and Jupiter is just about as big as a planet
can get before it starts fusing hydrogen and becomes a star. But the nice thing about this idea is it makes
a prediction: if it’s true, the Trojan asteroids will transit again in 2021, followed by the
gigantic planet in 2023. Until then we’re just going to keep our
eyes on the skies in case KIC 8462852 decides to do anything else weird. Special thanks to our sponsor, Domain dot
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domain names and web hosting when you use coupon code SEEKER at checkout. 1.4 million of you watched Trace and Astronomer
Aaron White talk about Tabby’s star two years ago, but if you weren’t among them
or want to believe that aliens did it, check out the original vid here. So do any of these ideas sway you or are you
still voting aliens? Let us know in the comments, like this video,
and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss another episode of Seeker.

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