High Strangeness: Alien Megastructure!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Alien Megastructure!

Wow, it's been an amazing 24 hours for UFO fans!

First came the announcement of the new UFO imaging system called UFODATA and spearheaded by a very impressive team of scientists and researchers. Similar in concept to Douglas Trumbull's UFOTOG project, UFODATA is envisioned as a global network of skywatching robots that will scan the skies 24/7 for UFOs.

According to the UFODATA website, planning and design of the first imaging unit is well underway:
This station will have a core optical unit with cameras capable of detecting and recording both an image and spectra, a magnetic sensing unit, instrumentation to detect microwave and other radiation, and other sensors to record atmospheric and local environmental data. Alarm triggers will initiate recording by all the equipment, permitting capture of a broad range of physical data that can then be analyzed by experts. 
The realization of this plan is a long way off, but what's important and exciting is that the plan a) exists, b) is feasible, and c) represents a whole new paradigm in UFO research.

The other fantastic news of the week is that scientists studying images from NASA's Kepler space telescope have discovered a star in our galaxy that appears to have an "alien megastructure" orbiting around it. The star, currently known as KIC 8462852 but undoubtedly soon to be dubbed something far more interesting like "Diablo" or "Deathstar" or "Harbinger" (Trade Mark!), is, from our earthly perspective, in the constellation Cygnus, the swan. It is, from all accounts, a pretty ordinary star, except for the fact that its light is continually obscured by something passing around its disc very, very, very often. Like an armada of orbiting starships, or the remains of a destroyed comet, or... an Alien Megastructure!
Dyson sphere...?

What form would this alien megastructure take? Many reports I've read today speculate that it could be a Dyson sphere, an artificially-constructed globe around a star first hypothesized by physicist Freeman Dyson. The idea is that beings could dismantle their home planet and use the materials to build a habitable sphere around their star, the radius of which would nearly match their planet's distance from the star (I say "nearly" because the planet's orbit would be elliptical and the sphere would be perfectly round). So, if we built a Dyson sphere out of out earth, we would all live on the inner surface of the sphere, and because we'd be capturing every photon given off by the sun, we'd never run out of clean, free energy. Also we'd create enough additional living space for the human race that we'd be able to get rid of every rental storage unit ever built (Of course, since some light from Harbinger is getting through to us, this Dyson sphere is obviously under construction, and thus has a lot of holes the light can get through).
...or Ringworld? Which is more "mega?"

As cool as that is, I'm rooting for the megastructure to be a Ringworld, as envisioned by science fiction author Larry Niven in his confusingly-titled novel "Ringworld." The Ringworld, as Niven imagines it, is like a Dyson sphere "lite." Instead of a sealed sphere around the star, it's a simple ribbon spinning around the star, so lots of light still gets through, from certain angles. The Ringworld has all the advantages of the Dyson sphere, but, because it's not an enclosed sphere, it's a lot easier to get out of if your star goes supernova. Something to consider.

But I'm getting picky. I should just be happy that we've possibly discovered an alien megastructure and not worry about what kind of megastructure it is, right? More than that, the simple fact that media outlets around the world are using the term "alien megastructure" in their headlines, without any embarrassment or qualifiers, is kind of amazing.


Paul Carr said...

The light form the star isn't continually obscured. These are discrete events hundreds of days apart.

Paul Carr said...

The light form the star isn't continually obscured. These are discrete events hundreds of days apart.

purrlgurrl said...

I hate to rain on the parade, but I'm taking a very "wait and see" attitude on KIC 8462852. The star is 1500 light years away and I don't have a lot of confidence that we can discern detail to conclusively identify the phenomenon at that distance with today's technology. This has all the earmarks of conclusion jumping before the fact and a tactic for attracting research dollars.

Jack Brewer said...

Fair enough, purrlgurrl, yet it still seems to me that the reported phenomena is by definition unusual (occurrences observed on a claimed one out of some 150,000 surveyed stars), making it worthy of further research. That of course doesn't make it a mega mother ship, but I empathize with researchers who may have been challenged to express the reasons they weren't convinced it was a natural phenomenon without prematurely labeling it something else. It might have been best to just say something to the effect their observations involved data they were not yet familiar with.

The dynamic of attracting research dollars is an issue that doesn't get enough attention in UFO circles, IMO. Thanks for touching on it. The whole nonprofit industry, grant writing process and related transparency policies do not appear to be widely understood in the UFO community.

purrlgurrl said...

I'm not denying it's unusual, but classifying it as unusual is done based on past observations and known phenomena. We are slowly, steadily developing and expanding our observation capabilities so we will continue to discover phenomena that appear to be new and unique simply because we didn't have the means to detect them in the past. The notion that we currently understand the workings of ALL stars and solar systems in the universe so anything outside our current definitions is artificial seems like hubris. Cheers.

Mark OC said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Given the conservative approach scientists usually take in describing such discoveries, I thought it was noteworthy that they were coming right out of the gate with speculation about alien megastructures. If nothing else, it could be proof that scientists are becoming more media savvy, recognizing the immense hunger that exists among the public for news of alien life and not feeling shy about capitalizing on that.

Tom said...

Don Schmitt's wig is an alien mega structure.

Mark OC said...

Can it blot out the light from a star?

Tom said...

Perhaps, but it definitely can blot out ufology's tenuous credibility.

Steve Sawyer said...

Regarding KIC 8462852 ("Tabby's star," after Tabetha Boyajian, one of the primary investigators):

"This is the best explanation yet for that 'alien megastructure' 1400 light-years away"

http://www.techinsider.io/alien-megastructure-explained-oblate-star-2015-10 and

"Did the Kepler space telescope discover alien megastructures? The mystery of Tabby’s star solved"


Both of the articles above suggest or claim that "the answer" is a fast-spinning "oblate" star with variable "gravity darkening" and "lightning" combined with eccentrically orbiting planets as an explanation for the asymmetrical light curves observed by Kepler, but I'd posit until further scientific analysis is conducted, no one still knows for sure.

I mean, c'mon: it's nearly 1500 light years away, and we cannot directly image it clearly at that distance -- Kepler only measures the dimming of the light caused by orbiting planetary occultation.

I think we can probably rule out any "alien megastructure" though, like a Dyson ring, or disturbed comet cloud.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KIC_8462852

Mark OC said...

Steve, I'm afraid you've fallen for the aliens' cover story. ;)