The dimming of giant star KIC 8462852 has baffled scientists since October 2015. Some think that the dimming is caused by aliens but scientists now propose a new theory, which eliminates the idea that intelligent alien life could be behind the bizarre dimming.
Strange Dips In Brightness
A star's brightness periodically dips by about 1 percent when a planet orbits around it but astronomers observed that KIC 8462852 has been experiencing erratic dips of up to 22 percent.
This prompted speculations that something big could be zooming past the star and that this mysterious object could be an alien megastructure.
Some scientists think the idea that an alien civilization is behind the dimming of the star is plausible. Earlier this year, two researchers concluded that the rapid bursts of light observed in the star can be best explained by extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI).
Researchers of a new study, however, think that the dimming is caused by something else. In the new study published in the journal Physical Review Letters, researchers suggest that the dimming could be intrinsic to the star.
Karin Dahmen, from the University of Illinois, and colleagues said that the star goes through an internal phase transition, which is responsible for the powerful outbursts on the surface that occasionally block the light emissions detected by telescopes. This means that internal conditions in the star itself could be behind the observed dips in its brightness.
The researchers have been studying the relationship between the star's large and small dips in brightness. Using mathematical models, they came up with patterns that appear in what is known as avalanche statistics, which is associated with things that go through certain phase transitions.
An example of such transition can be seen in the slow deformation of brittle materials. Little cracklings eventually get louder until the material breaks in a big snap.
"The small events in our star analysis would be like the little crackles while the large events would be the analogue of the big snap," Dahmen explained.
Dahmen and colleagues think that the star be may be near a critical point in a phase transition. They hope that as more data get analyzed, they would be able to identify what particular transition that star is going through.
"Scaling collapses suggest that this star may be near a nonequilibrium critical point. The large events are interpreted as avalanches marked by modified dynamics, limited by the system size, and not within the scaling regime," the researchers wrote.