In what will almost certainly be disappointing news for alien aficionados — or at least those hoping for signs of E.T. — scientists have concluded that the deeply erratic twinkling of the most perplexing star in the sky is not the work of aliens, but dust.
For years, this enigmatic star in the constellation Cygnus baffled astronomers with its seemingly random dips in brightness. Larger and brighter than the sun and nicknamed Tabby’s Star, the stellar weirdo stepped into the spotlight when scientists proposed that alien-built megastructures could be sporadically causing it to darken as they crossed its face.
But new observations suggest the real culprit is dust — perhaps the remains of a planet or moon the star recently destroyed. So, even though plain old dust is considerably less exciting than crafty aliens, there’s still some cosmic sleuthing to be done.
“I love a really good mystery, and I especially love it when all our best ideas just go out the window. It means we get to have more fun,” says Jason Wright of Pennsylvania State University. “The fact that it turned out to be boring old dust, as some would put it, is what everyone expected. But I’m gratified that we still have a nice healthy mystery to crunch on.”