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  • There are countless stars in the universe. There may be around one hundred billion stars just in our Milky Way galaxy alone.

  • But the single strangest one that we've discovered so far is a pretty close one to home, known officially as

  • KIC 8 4 6 2 8 5 2, it's only a little larger than the Sun is, and is only located about

  • 1280 light-years away from us. It's been known to humanity for quite some time,

  • but always remained relatively obscure until recent observations noticed something strange back in 2015.

  • It seemed like KIC 8 4 6 2 8 5 2 was getting dimmer, and nobody really understood

  • why. Researchers became aware in 2015 that back in March of 2011,

  • recordings made by the Kepler space telescope

  • indicated that the star's brightness was reduced by up to 15%, and by February 2013,

  • it's brightness had been reduced by up to 22%. The star continued to dim and brighten again,

  • which suggested that something enormous was orbiting around it. For

  • comparison, a planet the size of Jupiter would only obscure the star by just 1%.

  • This indicated that whatever was blocking the light from the star wasn't a planet,

  • but something way bigger,

  • covering up to half of the entire width of the star. In addition to these day-long dimming and brightenings, a study of a

  • century's worth of photographic plates dating between 1890 and 1998

  • suggested that the star's brightness had gradually faded by 20% in that time, an amount

  • unprecedented by any other known star of this size and type.

  • Speculation began to run rampant about what was causing the star to fade,

  • And one of the more interesting theories was that we were witnessing the construction of a giant alien

  • mega-structure called a dyson sphere. In a paper written back in 1960 by Freeman Dyson titled, "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation"

  • Dyson suggested that any other technological civilization in the universe would likely follow a similar power consumption pattern to that of humans.

  • Since humanity's energy needs have been continuously growing year by year,

  • It's possible that eventually we'll need more energy than what we can produce on earth, so, the logical end step for maximum energy

  • harvesting is to harvest it directly from the Sun from one of three different types of Dyson spheres.

  • Type one is to build a ring of orbiting structures around the star that collect light and wirelessly transfer the energy back to the home planet.

  • A type two is to build a bubble of satellites around the star that absorbs a good percentage of the light,

  • but not all of it. And a type three is to completely swallow the star with a solid shell of matter that absorbs

  • 100% of the energy and light that the star

  • produces. If a sphere like this was built around the Sun with a radius of one au, the spheres surface area would be

  • 550 million times the surface area of Earth, and it would produce a ridiculous 384.6

  • Yottawatts of energy, about 33 trillion times the entire energy consumption of all of humanity in

  • 1998

  • Access to such an enormous amount of energy would essentially make any civilization that harnessed it appear to us to be as powerful as Gods.

  • We don't know what exactly would be possible; it would kind of be like showing

  • paleolithic people what a nuclear reactor would be capable of doing.

  • Freeman Dyson speculated that any civilization in space that got advanced enough would eventually build one of these types of structures,

  • which meant that in theory, we could detect their presence by observing a massive dip in light, sort of like

  • what was happening with KIC 8 4 6 2 8 5 2.

  • However, Dyson also believes that most known

  • substances that would make up a Dyson Sphere would be re-radiating energy in the infrared part of the electromagnetic

  • spectrum, which was not being detected with our mysterious star. In 2016, the lead researcher into the light

  • irregularities of the star said in a now famous TED talk that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,

  • and it is my job, my responsibility, as an astronomer to remind people that alien

  • hypotheses should always be a last resort. To further add to the mystery though, the SETI Institute concluded that whatever

  • material is blocking the light between us and the star is

  • located inside the star's habitable zone,

  • where life like ours would be possible. The craziest theory is that we may be currently observing a gigantic

  • interplanetary space battle that included the apocalyptic destruction of a planet that generated dust obscuring the light from the star.

  • Seriously, all natural explanations were turning up weak, until a recent study was concluded just last month in January 2018.

  • More than 1,700 people donated over

  • $100,000 to fund the study, which concluded that the most likely culprit blocking the star's light was just

  • dust. The data showed that different colors of light were being blocked at different intensities,

  • which meant that whatever is passing between us and the star isn't opaque,

  • which is what would be expected from either a planet or an alien

  • mega-structure

  • If it is dust though, it's still not entirely clear

  • why that much would be in the system though in the first place.

  • Considering that it doesn't appear to be a young star system, dust should have coalesced into a series of planets by now,

  • which is yet another part of the puzzle

  • surrounding KIC 8 4 6 2 8 5 2.

  • There is still work that needs to be done in finding answers out about this star. We still can't say for certain

  • what exactly is going on. But what I can't say for certain is how to get a free audio book.

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The Most Mysterious Star in the Universe We Can't Explain

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/02/22
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