Wright Alien Megastructure Hypothesis

Another discovery, equally astonishing as the discovery of the God-destroying magnetic brain wave mentioned in an earlier column in his space:


KIC 8462852 is a distant star 1,481 light-years away from Earth with

… a very unusual flickering habit. Something was making the star dim drastically every few years, and she [Yale University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian] wasn’t sure what.

Boyajian wrote up a paper on possible explanations for the star’s bizarre behavior, which was published recently in the Monthly Notes of the Royals Astronomical Society. But she also sent her data to fellow astronomer Jason Wright, a Penn State University researcher who helped developed a protocol for seeking signs of unearthly civilization, wondering what he would make of it.

To Wright, it looked like the kind of star he and his colleagues had been waiting for. If none of the ordinary reasons for the star’s flux quite seemed to fit, perhaps an extraordinary one was in order.


Or, to be more specific, something built by aliens — a “swarm of megastructures,” as he told the Atlantic, likely outfitted with solar panels to collect energy from the star.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright said. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

To be sure, both Boyajian and Wright believe the possibility of alien megastructures around KIC 8462852 is very, very remote. It’s worthy of hypothesis, Wright told Slate, “but we should also approach it skeptically.”

Yet compared to the vast majority of supposed sightings of signs of extraterrestrial life, this one has some credibility…

…Volunteers marked it out as unusual in 2011, right after the program started: a star whose light curves seemed to dip tremendously at irregular intervals. At one point, about 800 days into the survey, the star’s brightness dropped by 15 percent. Later, around day 1,500, it dropped by a shocking 22 percent. Whatever was causing the dips, it could not have been a planet — even a Jupiter-sized planet, the biggest in our solar system, would only dim this star by 1 percent as it transited across, Slate reported.

Scientists — at least, the ones who like to theorize about these things — have long said that an advanced alien civilization would be marked by its ability to harness the energy from its sun (rather than scrabbling over its planet’s resources like us puny earthlings). They envision something like a Dyson Sphere, a hypothetical megastructure first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson that would orbit or even encompass a star, capturing its power and putting it to use.

Obviously, a Dyson sphere has never been spotted in real life, though they’re all over science fiction. But if one were to exist, it wouldn’t look like a metal ball around the sun — it would probably comprise a chain of smaller satellites or space habitats, something that would block its star’s light as weirdly and irregularly as the light of KIC 8462852 has been blocked. That’s why researchers who are interested in finding alien life are so excited about the finding.

Boyajian, Wright and Andrew Siemion, the director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, are now working on getting access to the massive radio dishes they can point at the star in search of the kinds of radio waves usually emitted by technology…


My comment: I like this hypothesis mostly because the astronomer is a member of my extended family.

The Wright Clan was sent to Earth to introduce inventions of our highly advanced civilization, including the flying machine (Orville, Wilbur) and alien architecture (Frank Lloyd) and Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), until you are advanced enough to understand the heliographic semaphores from KIC 8462852.

The irregular pattern of star fluctuations from KIC 8462852 are a signal group asking Earth to stop broadcasting radio waves into space, or trying to make contact with advanced alien civilizations.

The countless billions of advanced alien civilizations crammed into every nook and corner of the Orion Arm have had a rough last few millennia, and are trying to get over an abusive relationship with superintelligences from the Scutum-Crux Arm, and really, really don’t want to talk to anyone right now, or put in the kind of emotional investment you need to make first contact.

It is not you, Earth civilization. It is us. Really. Right now we just need a little space.