Did we just discover aliens? Scientists aren’t ruling it out
by Brian Greene
Aliens are not a thing. We know this, right? Well, maybe. Turns out that, almost despite themselves, some of the world’s leading astronomers are taking seriously the question of whether or not we are alone on Earth. Among them, Yale’s Tabetha Boyajian, who has stumbled into what might be one of the biggest mysteries in the galaxy.
It centers on a star known as KIC 8462852, tucked in the constellation Cygnus, more than 1,500 light years away from Earth. In 2015, using data from NASA’s Kepler space observatory, citizen scientists from Planet Hunters noticed something weird: something roughly 1,000 times the area of Earth was blocking the light from the star. This transit, as such dimming is known, was also happening in an unusual, unpredictable pattern. Some say massive clouds of star-making material might be blocking the light, while others think swarms of giant comets are getting in the way. But there’s another possible explanation that has yet to be ruled out: giant, alien-built megastructures. In this Q&A, Boyajian shares more details on KIC 8462852, now affectionately known as Tabby’s Star (a name she claims no responsibility for coining), and herein shortened to KIC 846 (a name she’s cool with).