Joe Malan

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how the star KIC 8462852 has been exhibiting some strange behavior.

The star's light had been fading in a way not seen by astronomers before, and scientists believed the most likely scenario was a large family of comets blocking out the star's light.

Well ...

Further research by Louisiana State University astronomer Bradley Schaefer has determined that 648,000 comets, each with a diameter of more than 100 miles, would be required to block out the star's light.

Impossible? No. But highly, highly, highly unlikely.

Furthermore, Schaefer found data demonstrating light from the star has progressively dimmed over the last CENTURY, at least. The light is dimming irregularly, but in linear fashion; in other words, there is a noticeable trend.

What does that mean?

It means that if this were a cloud of comets passing in front of the star, more and more of these 100-mile-wide comets would have to be gathered with each pass.

Or, artificial structures are constantly being added that are progressively blocking out more and more of the star's light.

Which takes us back to the Dyson sphere theory. A Dyson sphere, if you'll remember, is a theoretical, gigantic structure built by an advanced society that harvests the entire energy of a star.

The Dyson structure could theoretically take other forms, too, such as a Dyson ring or Dyson swarm, each with different shapes, but built by interstellar civilizations.

At any rate, things should become a lot more clear in a few months, when astronomers finally may get an opportunity to observe the star while its light is dipping. Doing this will allow us to see certain gases — if any — emitted by whatever is blocking the star's light. After analysis, we should find out then if we're dealing with something natural — or something truly otherworldly.

Joe Malan attended Valparaiso University from 2004-08, where he conducted observatory and planetarium shows from the public. Email him at


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