Tabby’s Star light with some strange dips on it have been puzzling the scientists since 2015, with some hopefuls refusing to rule out the chance that some kind of “alien megastructure” could be blocking the way.
Now, experts have come up with another explanation that does not involve extraterrestrial technology, but a massive ringed planet some five times the size of Jupiter.
With making a giant planet model, astronomers from the University of Valencia and the University of Cantabria in Spain found it could account for some of the light fluctuations if the planet’s rings were tilted.
The team says that other dips in light that were recorded since, could be caused by trailing asteroids.
If this hypothesis is right, then will see another dip in light in 2021 thanks to a second cloud of asteroids. These swarms usually travel in pairs.
In their paper, astronomers have written: “We aim at offering a relatively natural solution, invoking only phenomena that have been previously observed, although perhaps in larger or more massive versions.“
However, Tabby’s Star is technically known as KIC 8462852. It is more massive and hotter than our Sun. It can be found almost 1,500 light-years away between the Cygnus and Lyra constellations of the Milky Way.
We have known about this star since 2009, but a couple of years ago it became something of a stellar celebrity after astronomers noted dips in light that were far more frequent and irregular than they should be.
Since then, more variations in the emitted light have been spotted, with the most recent just last month. The researchers that are responsible for this new hypothesis says that that particular dip could be caused by the giant planet passing behind Tabby’s Star.
That would dim the total amount of light coming from the system, as there would be no visible reflection off the planet as it passed behind the star.
According to a study in 2016, if we’re not dealing with alien spaceships or a huge planet the size of five Jupiters, space junk could also be responsible.
That study put forward the idea that a different star along our line of sight, together with an unidentified form of space clutter, could be causing the dimming.
For now, the idea of planetary rings and asteroids is just a hypothesis, and it hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed or published in a journal.
However, not everyone is convinced. David Kipping from Columbia University says that the biggest issue is the way the model scales.
“It’s great that we’re getting creative and maybe some parts of this theory might comprise the final answer, but I’m fairly sceptical this is the solution,” says Kipping for New Scientist.
The study authors aren’t too deterred though. They say that although there are problems with how the idea scales, large parts of the hypothesis fit the data we’ve got.
In 2021, we might get chance to see if Fernández-Soto and his colleagues are right.