Astronomers worldwide are scrambling a worldwide effort to capture as many images of the famous "Tabby's Star" (also known as Boyajian's Star), which has abruptly entered a dimming phase.
Of particular importance will be measurements of the light from Tabby's Star at different wavelengths, which could reveal what is causing the fluctuations.
KIC 8462852, which lies 1,480 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, was first noted by astronomers in 2015 when data from the planet-hunting Kepler telescope showed a series of dips in brightness. But the star's behavior continues to be very unusual to the point that most potential explanations can't really be ruled out, including some very industrious aliens. As much as 20 per cent brightness dip has been seen before reverting to normal.
Scientists now have the opportunity to observe and photograph the star's dimming behaviour clearly, which astronomers hope will shed light on its mysterious appearance.
But KIC 8462852 has been experiencing erratic dips of up to 22 percent, and there's no periodic orbiting going on here - just a bunch of irregular, light-blocking shapes, with no discernible pattern to them.
The most popular theory formulated by some researchers is that an alien megastructure orbiting around the star has caused the depletion in the radiance of the star. However, the more likely explanation is a cloud of dust or another natural object is periodically drifting in front of the star.
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"We're still quite unsure if it is, in fact, a duplicate of that event, meaning that it's the same object that's passing in front of (the star)".
But until they can disprove this theory, Tabby's star will remain an enigma. However, not everyone is convinced this is the reason behind Tabby star's weird behavior. The largest and most powerful telescopes that will heed the call are the twin 10-meter telescopes at the W.H. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.
That's a big deal, because it means scientists can target the star with a number of telescopes that operate at a variety of ranges across the light spectrum. The team is working to gain observing time on at least three other large telescopes on the USA, according to Wright.
Last year SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial life Institute) announced it was going to focus on the star in a bid to get to the bottom of the mystery. "There's a palpable tension".
The team that made this discovery, led by Yale University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian-the star's namesake-suggested a variety of explanations for its odd behavior, including that the star itself was variable, that it was surrounded by clouds of dust or dusty comets, or that planets around it had collided or were still forming.