Put away the red carpet, people. We are now definitely sure that the star KIC 8462852, 1,500 light-years away and hypothesized to potentially have signs of an advanced alien civilization, doesn’t host intelligent extraterrestrial life.
This confirmation comes from the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) International organization. While the SETI Institute in California had previously searched for signals indicative of advanced life coming from the star, this latest round of observations was much more intensive. Sadly, it appears there is nothing there.
"The hypothesis of an alien megastructure around KIC 8462852 is rapidly crumbling apart," said Douglas Vakoch, President of SETI International and an author of the paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, available on Arxiv, in a statement. "We found no evidence of an advanced civilization beaming intentional laser signals toward Earth.”
The initial excitement had arisen when Jason Wright, an astrophysicist from Pennsylvania State University, suggested to The Atlantic that a huge dip in brightness seen from the star – up to 20 percent of its light – could be artificial in origin. This had people dreaming of Dyson spheres, vast theoretical structures that could potentially harness the power of entire stars, and other exciting extraterrestrial constructs.
Last month, separate research concluded that the anomaly was almost certainly just a swarm of comets, as postulated by the author of the paper first describing the star, Tabetha Boyajian, in September.
In this latest study, scientists searched for signals as short as a billionth of a second coming from the star between October 29 and November 28, using the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama. While other searches had looked for a stream of pulses, this observatory used a single photometer to look for pulses that repeat in a regular manner – a clear sign of an artificial signal.
But while this study came up empty handed, it did at least help test the methods that will be used in the case that an actual detection is made, with the Allen Telescope Array in northern California also looking for signals.
"If some day we really detect a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization, we need to be ready to follow up at observatories around the world, as quickly as possible," added Vakoch in the statement.
Better luck next time, eh.