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Tabby's star: The mystery deepens

27 Jan 2016, 22:41 UTC
Tabby's star: The mystery deepens NASA
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'Tabby's star' is an oddly unassuming name for a star that is so mysterious, and has attracted so much wild speculation, but it seems to have stuck. In case you've not been obsessively following the astronomy news in the way way I do, Tabby's star (real name KIC 8462852, but nicknamed for the lead author on the paper that first noted it's strangeness) flickers in an unusual way: Most stars that change in brightness are naturally variable, or are orbited by planets that block out some of the light as they rotate between the star and Earth. Both cases produce a recognisable kind of flicker, with a definite pattern to it. Tabby's star seems to flicker in a random way (I've mentioned it before in this post and this post), and to make it even odder as search through historical data shows it has been steadily dimming overall for over a century. Of course, one explanation put forwards for this strange behaviour is aliens - aliens get invoked fairly quickly when naural explanations don't pan out, because aliens could be up to almost anything.  It's not Starkiller Base from Star Wars, ok? Unless the universe is even weirder than I think, ...

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