LSU researchers debunk Alien Megastructure Theory on 'Most Mysterious Star in the Universe'

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - One of the biggest mysteries in the sky, a thousand light years away, is now cracked open by L.S.U. researchers in Baton Rouge.

The star is known as the "Most Mysterious Star in the Universe" because it inexplicably dims and brightens like no other. Several theories tried to explain the star's unusual light patterns, but the one that caught many people's attention was the theory that an alien megastructure was orbiting the star.

LSU researchers debunked the alien megastructure theory, saying dust is likely the cause.

A team of more than 100 researchers, led by LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Assistant Professor Tabetha Boyajian, set out to solve this mystery.

Tyler Ellis is in his second year of graduate school at LSU and has been working with Boyajian on this project. He described how one researchers' theory sparked interest around the world.

"He said if we've exhausted all the physical possibilities, we can't exhaust the extraterrestrial possibilities," Ellis said.

Emily Safron, also a second-year LSU grad student, said this Alien Megastructure theory put the mysterious star in the spotlight. Thanks to the attention around this project, more than 1,700 people donated over $100,000 through a Kickstarter campaign.

"People were more on board with solving the larger scientific mystery of 'is there anything out there?' Can we find out by exploring what is happening with this star? Capturing the public's curiosity, we were able to pull enough together to fund the Kickstarter campaign," Safron said.

The scientists observed the star through the Las Cumbres Observatory from March 2016 to December 2017. Through this research, Boyajian determined dust is the most likely cause.

"Dust is most likely the reason why the star's light appears to dim and brighten. The new data shows that different colors or light are being blocked at different intensities," Boyajian said. "Therefore, whatever is passing between us and the star is not opaque, as would be expected from a planet or alien megastructure."

Researchers said the findings would not have been possible without the support of citizen scientists.

"It's one of the first publicly crowdsource funded science projects producing real, tangible results," Ellis said. "It really showed that ordinary people with just a few extra bucks can contribute to groundbreaking science."

While, researchers have named dust as the likeley cause, there is still a lot left to look at.

"This isn't over just because we ruled out the Alien Megastructure Hypothesis that might have peaked the public's interest," Safron said. "I think the star is even more interesting now, because no explanation that we've proposed or that anyone has proposed has come close to explaining all of the things that we are observing."

Researchers at LSU are now looking into the size and location of the dust particles.




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