by Hannah Osborne
Professor Brian Cox has said that if an advanced alien civilisation had built a megastructure to harness energy from its star, it would not be “horrendously surprising”. The physicist was speaking about the possibility of an alien megastructure around the star KIC 8462852 on Shaun Keavney’s BBC Radio 6 breakfast show.
Cox said the discovery of the dimming star – located over 1,400 light-years from Earth – is nothing to be worried about, but that it certainly is an unusual find. The dimming star was found using the Kepler space telescope, which looks at planets around stars. With KIC 8462852, scientists noticed there were “huge light dips”.
“A quarter of the light from the star would vanish – which even the biggest conceivable planet would only drop the light by about 1%. It’s not planets that’s doing it. And they’re irregular and you can measure the shape – we can see it’s not spherical and … it’s a very strange star system where there’s something really big, or lots of big things orbiting around the star,” said Cox.
There are several theories as to what is causing this massive light dip. One is that it is the result of a planetary collision, but this would have resulted in dust clouds that could be detected by the heat radiation. Another is a nearby star has disturbed the comets in the oort cloud, scattering thousands of comets around.
Finally, it could be an alien civilisation building a massive structure around the star to harness its energy. This idea was first suggested by Freeman Dyson in the 1960s, who said any advanced civilisation would need more and more energy. With the sun being the biggest source of energy, it makes sense they would turn to this and build orbiting solar panels around the star.