It sounds like science fiction, but some of our finest scientific minds consider it a very real possibility. Somewhere out there, another civilisation may have built an immense structure – so big our telescopes could see them from afar.
The Kepler Space Telescope, designed to find distant planets far outside our solar system and stars far beyond the reach of naked eye, has found what The Atlantic calls “the most mysterious star in our galaxy”
This distant star has been giving strange light fluctuations unlike anything seen before.
“We’d never seen anything like this star,” says Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoctorate researcher at Yale. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”
The light pattern given by the star suggests it could be surrounded by a huge amount of matter, orbiting in a very tight formation, blocking much of its light.
While it’s common for a young star to be surrounded by debris, this should not be possible for a star as old as this one; this orbiting matter would have either begun to form into planets, or been pulled into the sun’s gravity.
There could be plenty of reasons, as yet undiscovered by science, as to why this is possible. But one particular possibility – remote, but certainly plausible – has astronomers particularly excited: it’s an alien structure.
“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider,” said Jason Write, an astronomer from Penn State University. “But this looked like something you would expect an alien civilisation to build”.
While he’s not jumping to conclusions write and his team suggests that these strange light patterns could indicate a “swarm of megastructures” surrounding the sun, perhaps harnessing its energy.
This idea, known as the “Dyson Sphere”, has been discussed for decades. Many astrophysicists consider this a logical way for a suitably advanced civilisation to collect energy. Here is one artist’s interpretation of what such a structure could look like:
Image by Kevin Gill
Write and his co-authors have put forward other theories as to how this could exist. However, all other explanations so far have come up short, leaving extraterrestrials – at this early stage – as a genuinely plausible option.
While plenty of further research will be needed, the merest possibility has us thrilled!
What do you think? Are you excited by this possibility? Do you believe it’s plausible? Or is it all a load of wishful thinking?