spaceSpace and Physics

Search For Life Around Weird Star Continues


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockOct 27 2016, 15:27 UTC

The Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia. NRAO/AUI

Tabby’s star remains as complex and mysterious as when it was first presented over a year ago, and while there’s no evidence of an "alien megastructure" around it, people are still very interested in what’s going on.

Astronomers from UC Berkley will use the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia to look for artificial signals from the pesky star, technically known as KIC 8462852.


“The Green Bank Telescope is the largest fully steerable radio telescope on the planet, and it’s the largest, most sensitive telescope that’s capable of looking at Tabby’s star given its position in the sky,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, in a statement.

“We’ve deployed a fantastic new SETI instrument that connects to that telescope, that can look at many gigahertz of bandwidth simultaneously and many, many billions of different radio channels all at the same time so we can explore the radio spectrum very, very quickly.”

The investigation is part of Breakthrough Listen, a project started last year by Internet investor Yuri Milner. The program plans to survey the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth, covering 10 times more area of the sky, five times the radium spectrum, and 100 times faster.

“The Breakthrough Listen program has the most powerful SETI equipment on the planet, and access to the largest telescopes on the planet,” continued Siemion, who is also the co-director of Breakthrough Listen.


“We can look at it with greater sensitivity and for a wider range of signal types than any other experiment in the world.”

There are three eight-hours observations planned over the next two months, which will collect a whopping petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of data over a hundred million radio frequencies. The team doesn’t really expect to find aliens there, but its mysteries definitely require more investigations.

“Everyone, every SETI program telescope, I mean every astronomer that has any kind of telescope in any wavelength that can see Tabby’s star has looked at it,” he added.

“It’s been looked at with Hubble, it’s been looked at with Keck, it’s been looked at in the infrared and radio and high energy, and every possible thing you can imagine, including a whole range of SETI experiments. Nothing has been found.”


Tabby’s star was first reported by assistant professor Tabetha Boyajian (for who it is named) in September 2015 after being flagged by citizen scientists for its unusual dips in starlight. Subsequent analyses have not provided any conclusive answers so all we know now is that KIC 8462852 is a star like no other.

spaceSpace and Physics
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