For the past six years, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been meticulously scanning the cosmos for signs of planets among the numerous stars in our galaxy. The only problem is that planets are notoriously difficult to spot with traditional telescopes.
The best method that scientists have come up with is to monitor the brightness of stars to see if planets could be passing in front of them. A recent analysis of Kepler data from several years ago has revealed something surprising. We may not be alone in this galaxy of ours.
The data in question was collected over the course of four years while Kepler was studying a cluster of 150,000 stars.
Because Kepler collects so much data, researchers rely on so-called "citizen scientists" to help them analyze and parse out the information.
In 2011, a star called KIC 8462852 was marked as "unusual."
Citizen scientists kept a close eye on it.
Over the four years that Kepler was looking at KIC 8462852, it saw multiple dips in brightness...but not the kind that you'd expect from a planet.
Usually, a dip lasting a few hours or a few days is normal when a planet is spotted. However, the dips in front of KIC 8462852 were different. In 2009, observers noticed a decrease in light in front of the star. In 2011, there was another dip that lasted about a week. In 2013, something made the star seem dimmer yet again.
So if they weren't seeing a planet passing in front of the star, what was happening?
While more research is obviously necessary, many people speculate that this phenomenon is associated with extraterrestrial activity. According to some scientists, what was passing in front of the star could have been an alien superstructure.
(via IFL Science)
If these findings pan out, that would be amazing! Sadly, Kepler is currently in the middle of a different mission. However, NASA has already scheduled the telescope to take another look at KIC 8462852 in 2017.