Tabby’s star, otherwise known as KIC 8462852, has provoked so much excitement over the past year, with speculation that it hosts a highly advanced civilisation capable of building orbiting megastructures, that UC Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen project is devoting hours of time on the Green Bank radio telescope to see if it can detect any extraterrestrial signals.
About 250 million light-years away, there’s a neighbourhood of our universe that astronomers had considered quiet and unremarkable. But now, scientists have uncovered an enormous, bizarre galaxy possibly formed from the parts of other galaxies. Some 718,000 light-years across, UGC 1382 is more than seven times wider than the Milky Way.
Media interest went viral last October when a group of astronomers from Pennsylvania State University cited that the “bizarre light curve” of KIC 8462852, popularly known as Tabby’s star, was “consistent with” a swarm of alien-constructed megastructures. Now, the results of a new study make it far less likely that KIC 8462852 is the home of industrious extraterrestrials.
Imagine living on a world where, every 69 years, the sun disappears in a near-total eclipse that lasts for three and a half years. That is just what happens in a newly discovered system, known only by its astronomical catalogue number TYC 2505-672-1, setting a new record for both the longest duration stellar eclipse and the longest period between eclipses in a binary star system.
Astronomers can’t find any sign of the black hole at the centre of the quasar SDSS J1011+5442, and they couldn’t be happier. The black hole is still there, of course, but over the past ten years, it appears to have swallowed all the gas in its vicinity. With the gas consumed, researchers were unable to detect the spectroscopic signature of the quasar, which now appears as an otherwise normal galaxy.