“Otherwise we are trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t exist with a system which doesn’t work.” -Philip K. Dick
When it comes to the now famous “Alien Megastructures” star, the observations didn’t add up. There were huge, irregular flux dips, but not a hint of infrared radiation that would indicate a circumstellar disk. Infrared radiation was the marker for a whole slew of indicators — planetary collision debris, warped, thick disks, cometary swarms — that could be the cause of such spectacular dips.
Image credit: Tabby Boyajian and her team of PlanetHunters, via http://sites.psu.edu/astrowright/2015/10/15/kic-8462852wheres-the-flux/.
Yet there are increasingly more and more stars that show these huge, irregular flux dips, and they all have a few things in common. They’re all young stars, they all emit infrared radiation, they all have circumstellar disks and they all show a variety of disk orientations with respect to our line-of-sight. Is it possible, just as we can’t see Saturn’s rings when they’re edge-on, that this mysterious star’s disk is edge-on, and that’s why we can’t see its infrared flux?
Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. Image credit: Ron Miller.
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