Christian Theology and Apologetics

Archive for the tag “SETI”

Alien Superstructures Around Star KIC 8462852?

star-cometsBetween the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra lies a star that has a peculiar feature that has been observed for four years beginning in 2009. In 2011 citizen scientists who participated in “planet hunters” —a program started by Kepler scientists to identify patterns in star behavior— found a star that emitted a very strange light pattern. They noticed aperiodic dips in flux below the 20% level that lasted anywhere between five and eighty days.[1] This light pattern seemed to indicate there was a great deal of matter orbiting the star, which would be expected of a young star, but the catch is that this star isn’t young, it appears to be an older mature star.

The team notes that these observations can be caused by a number of known phenomena such as starspots and pulsations, but what they have difficulty in formulating an explanation for the event they call D1500, which refers to a period of eighty days where exotic dips that couldn’t be accounted for in instrumental or statistical variations and must be astrophysical in origin. Another possibility is the observations were from the stars emission of disk material associated with Be-stars. The difficulty with this postulation is that there is not enough observed IR excess to support an excretion disk. They postulate that remnants of a broken up comet or an optically thin asteroid belt could account for the observations, but conclude that this is unlikely due to their lack of repeated dimming events every 750 days.

Other scenarios considered were dust-enshrouded planetesimals and comet families. What is to be observed is that nowhere in the body of the published work are concocted theories of Dyson Spheres or other alien produced superstructures as Jason Wright  and others suggest. If it were something like a Dyson Sphere, how would the Kepler observe the light emitted from the star? Wright posits that the unusual light emitted from the star is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures.” It seems Wright is jumping ahead of himself here. In response, I would simply ask what other superstructures have been observed, and if there are none, how could the data be consistent. Science is based on observed repeatable experiments, without further data, Mr. Wright is just speculating wildly, and I might add, irresponsibly. Philosophical presuppositions often take data and forms a conclusion the interpreter wants, and I think it is clear that this is the case with Wright. That being said, if his proposal to aim SETI at the star is approved we might gain more evidence leading one way or the other as to the origin of the observed patterns of the star. A final thought regarding this star I find amusing; it is interesting that when perceived design is observed on Earth it is always given a naturalistic explanation, but when something out in the heavens appears—remotely—that it has a chance of being designed, the answer is an intelligent mind, albeit an alien one. Again, the point is that presuppositions formulate conclusions in science—as it does in other fields—more than most are willing to admit.




[1] Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 – Where’s the flux? Retrieved from: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1509.03622v1.pdf


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