Back in 2015, scientists discovered that the star known as KIC 8462852 was experiencing sudden dip in luminosity. At the time, researchers explained that the sudden drop in luminosity might be caused by passing comets in front of the star.
However, the cause of the surprising phenomenon was still missing despite a number of research. The star had a stable luminosity for a period of last 2 years and now, it has suddenly started dimming again.
The news first broke last month after it was reported by Fairborn Observatory in Arizona. Although this time the dip in the brightness of the star lasted for only a week, it attracted interests of astronomers around the world.
This was back in last month and more recently on May 18th, another significant drop has begun and according to the data released by the observatory, the star has dimmed by 2% after just one night of observation.
Along with several other scientists, associate professor at Pennsylvania State University Jason Wright also became interested as he said during a webcast, “Tabby’s star… went through a lot of very strange dimming events that got up to 22% dimmer during the Kepler Mission, and since then we’ve been eagerly awaiting another dip. And the reason that we’ve been waiting for that is that whatever is causing the star to get dimmer will leave a spectral fingerprint behind. So if it’s a lot of dust between us and the star that’s passing by, it should block more blue light than red light. If there’s gas in that dust, that gas should absorb very specific wavelengths. So we’ve been eager to see one of these changes, these dips in the star, so we can take the spectra.”
As he explained, if the event is caused by natural phenomena, we will be able to learn it by analyzing spectra we obtain from the star. Wright went on to explain that although there were indications in the preceding weeks that there were something happening around the star, none of the events were significant enough to change the course of the telescopes to the star as all of the telescopes had their schedule fixed weeks in advance.
After the events however, data from different observatories around the world has indicated that the star is in the process of dimming and more observatories are likely to join to explain the phenomenon. Hopefully, we will learn the cause in the coming months.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons