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Another Dimming EPIC Star Is Likely An Alien Planet, Astronomers Say

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Astronomers discover another star that dimmed strangely than similar red dwarves. EPIC 204376071 dimming behavior makes it a potential planet candidate.

EPIC 204376071, which sits just 440 light-years from Earth, is different from other famous dimming red dwarves. It dimmed up to 80 percent for an entire day compared to just 22 percent of another known red dwarf star called KIC 8462852 or Tabby's star.

Strange Star

EPIC 204376071 is classified as a red dwarf that is only about 16 percent of the sun's mass. It is approximately 10 million years old, which is relatively young for a star. It has a temperature of 3,000 Kelvin and brightness of about 3 percent of the sun's luminosity.

What makes EPIC 204376071 interesting, according to the scientists, is its asymmetrical occultation. Occultation is the ingress and egress of something that is blocking its light.

The egress or the exit of the light-blocking material is twice the size of its ingress or entry. Authors of the study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reported that there are two possibilities for this spatial event.

"The two possible explanations we are left with are (1) orbiting dust or small particles (e.g., a disk bound to a smaller orbiting body, or unbound dust that emanates from such a body); or (2) a transient accretion event of dusty material near the corotation radius of the star," the authors wrote.

Researchers suggested doing radial velocity measurements to determine if there is anything orbiting the star. Adaptive optics observations will identify the origin of the light.

Alien Megastructure

In 2015, Tabetha Boyajian from the Louisiana State University observed an irregular light fluctuation captured by the Kepler Space Telescope. Astronomers believed that alien megastructures may have caused the light patterns of Tabby's star.

Studies following the discovery of Tabby's star hypothesized that the light patterns may be due to a ringed planet passing in front of it, space junks, a swarm of comets, or an unknown internal event.

Recently, a team from UC Berkeley SETI observed Tabby's star from a different angle using the Lick Observatory's Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope. Their findings ruled out earlier suggestions of an alien presence.

"The top candidates from the analysis can all be explained as either cosmic ray hits, stellar emission lines or atmospheric air glow emission lines," the study authors wrote.

Their research serves as the foundation for future studies on the quest for extraterrestrial objects using the APF telescope.

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