On Stars, And the Satellites that Love Them

Centuries ago, man pondered if there were advanced beings on cosmos-dancing planets like Mars and Venus. What seemed worlds away has been brought closer by developments of human technology, where satellites have peered into the lifeless surfaces of our nearby planets. Lately, with more advances in human technology, we’ve gained the ability to look at far more distant places and wonder again if there was anyone there to say hello back.

Those advances are brought to us by the space satellite Kepler  – and satellites like it – which detect exoplanets.

No, we can’t zoom our powerful telescopes to view alien races that look like sentient Koala Bears when they are playing checkers. What we can see, however, is the total light given off by the stars, and whether the light from those stars fluctuates in any way.

When the light detected by Kepler decreases for a set amount of time and increases suddenly, that means a distant planet has passed over the light of the star. We call these alien worlds exoplanets. Exoplanets are planets outside of our own Solar System.

For a specific star, (KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s star) a strange and exciting phenomenon has been observed. The star’s luminosity, or the amount of light a star gives off and reaches us, has shown several dips in its intensity, all at random increments. While a planet would be periodically moving in front of this star and dipping its light every so often, whatever is in front of this star is a jumbled mess of random objects obstructing the light view!

Whatever is obstructing that light source has scientists’ hearts and minds a flutter with curiosity.

That being said, scientists over the years have pondered about what ultra-advanced civilizations would build. “What is one thing these beings would definitely need?” these scientists ask themselves. “And how would they achieve that need in a very efficient way?”

The obvious answer, according to scientists, is energy.  All civilizations will need something to generate ungodly amounts of sweet, surging volts, amps, and joules of electricity to meet their expanding technological capabilities, along with their population. What would allow a civilization to meet these demands, with energy to spare?

What theoretical scientists call a  “Dyson Sphere”.  This hypothetical object would grant a race of super-smart beings seemingly endless amounts of energy. How would they do it? Why, by building an enormous mega-structure that encompasses – or merely partially blocks – some of a nearby star. Think of it as the next step in solar panels. (Elon Musk should be abducted by these hypothetical aliens anytime now.)

I know what you’re thinking.

“Why do you immediately go to there?! An enormous, futuristic power plant? It could just be a facility that manufactures space pens!”

Well, okay. That’s a fair point. But consider the following: We’re almost 1,500 light years away from this faint beam of light, and yet, we can detect this object passing in front of the star. It is very unlikely (impossible?) a civilization would dedicate that much attention to building space pens. Even though I’m quite positive the quality of these aforementioned pens would be out of this world.

This structure would take an endless supply of natural resources and would not be easy in the slightest to build, let alone maintain and draw energy from. But that’s what makes them super-smart beings. They’ve already figured the hard part out.

The idea that this could be an alien mega-structure is speculation. There has been nothing found to tell us that this could be the work of aliens. In fact, honed in upon the pinpoint of light, astronomers have all but ruled out aliens as an explanation for this phenomenon.

An alternate explanation, say scientists, is that this could be an asteroid and comet hodgepodge of obliterated space rocks, with no sense of order or style. Astronomers are keeping a watchful eye and ear to watch and listen for anything that could tip them off, though. Until then, hone your checkers game. A sentient koala could be awaiting your challenge.