The star randomly dims and brightens and doesn’t occur with the regular cadence that would mark the presence of an orbiting planet. Which NASA have used to identify over 2,000 planets orbiting 1,000 stars from the Kepler telescope data. Various theories have been put forward and knocked down for this seemly randomised dimming: Planet forming dust clouds (the stars too old); debris from colliding planets (Too brief to register) or a swarm of comets (Too much dimming for comets alone).
This has led some people to suggest that we have discovered an alien megastructure. The first solid evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. The suggestion is this dimming is cause by a distant alien civilisation constructing a Dyson Sphere around their sun to harness its energy. Adding fuel to this particular theory is an analysis from the California Institute of Technology and Carnegie Institute suggesting a sharp drop in the stars output over time.
However its worth pointing out, before ET phones home, we've been here before with other unexplained phenomena. In the 1960's Cambridge astronomers found puzzling clock like radio pulses that turned out to be coming from dead stars or Pulsars. Around the same time Russian astronomers claimed erratic radio transmissions from distant galaxies were aliens trying to get in touch. In fact, they were just giant black holes doing their thing.
As for Tabby's Star, well SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) devoted two weeks searching for a microwave signal that is thought to be the most likely sign of an intelligent civilization. The result? They fond nothing to indicate intelligent alien life. Meanwhile a recent Kickstarter campaign has raised enough cash to buy time on a private network of telescopes to study the star for a year, in the hope of finding something.
As of now the smart money, and history of astronomy, says its a natural phenomena we've not encountered before, but will eventually solve. However if there are aliens there, given that they are 1,480 light years away were unlikely to be visiting anytime soon.
Closer to home German magazine Der Spiegel is claiming that scientists from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) are about to reveal the discovery of a new Earth like exoplanet a mere 4.24 light years away, at the end of August.
It's claimed the as yet nameless planet orbits Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system. It's also claimed that its orbit falls within the 'goldilocks zone', where the presence of water and life as we understand it is possible.
Yet even this, the closest earth-like planet discovered to date, a mere 2,479,271,0570,269 miles away, is beyond the reach of our current technology. So I guess I and others like me are going to have make do with playing No Man's Sky for now. Which will be the subject of a future blog no doubt.