This is one of the most significant astronomical finds in recent decades. It might even become one of the most significant scientific discoveries of all time.
There is an unusual star above the Milky Way (KIC 8462852, located 1480 light years from Earth), observed by the Kepler Space Telescope, which is emitting strange light patterns due to unusual concentrations of bodies orbiting the star. One theory, deemed unlikely, is that it’s a sea of comets. Among other theories:
Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.
“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”
Boyajian is now working with Wright and Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The three of them are writing up a proposal. They want to point a massive radio dish at the unusual star, to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.