A Solar System Swept Clean - For A Dyson Swarm

The Kepler space telescope has picked up an unusual star system that seems to have a very unusual distribution of objects orbiting the star.

KIC 8462852 is an unique source in the Kepler field. They conducted numerous observations of the star and its environment, and our analysis characterizes the object as both remarkable (e.g., the “dipping” events in the Kepler light curve) and unremarkable (ground-based data reveal no deviation from a normal F-type star) at the same time. They presented an extensive set of scenarios to explain the occurrence of the dips, most of which are unsuccessful in explaining the observations in their entirety. However, of the various considered, they find that the break-up of a exocomet provides the most compelling explanation.

The light pattern suggests there is a lot of objects circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. When our solar system first formed, four and a half billion years ago, a messy disk of dust and debris surrounded the sun, before gravity organized it into planets, and rings of rock and ice. But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.

It appears to be mature.

If another star had passed through the unusual star’s system, it could have pulled a lot of comets inward. A huge number of comets could have made the dimming pattern. It would have had to have happened few thousand years ago. This would be a one in several million chance event for it to happen with the billions of year life of stars.

An interesting possibility is that we are looking at an alien built Dyson Swarm of orbiting solar arrays.

A "Dyson swarm" consists of a large number of independent constructs (usually solar power satellites and space habitats) orbiting in a dense formation around the star. This construction approach has advantages: components could be sized appropriately, and it can be constructed incrementally. Various forms of wireless energy transfer could be used to transfer energy between components and Earth. It is the most technically feasible method of gathering most of the power from a star.

Science fiction fans have long been aware of this feature of highly advanced solar systems. In his amazing Hugo and Nebula award-winning 1970 novel Ringworld, science fiction author Larry Niven tells eager readers about the characteristics of a ringworld solar system:

In the system of the G2 sun there was nothing at all but the ring itself. No planets, no asteroids, no comets.

"They cleaned it out," said Louis. "They didn't want anything to hit the ring."

A ringworld is a special case of a Dyson sphere, which would completely contain a sun.

Via Next Big Future.

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