Nature

Dyson Spheres – what are they?

KIC8462852, a star, has caused the internet to go into frenzy with the possibility of proving that once and for all, aliens exist. About a month ago, it was released that the star exhibited unusual behavior. The light coming from it dimmed at irregular times. This led some to believe that it could be the possibility of alien structures, called Dyson Spheres, orbiting the star.dyson sphere

The Kepler mission finds planets by scanning the sky. It watches the light that the stars give off. If a planet is orbiting that star, once it passes between the star and the Kepler telescope, it will cause the light coming from that
star to dim. Planets normally cause the star to dim at regular times do to the consistency of their orbit. For example, someone looking at our star would notice that a certain planet, the Earth, causes the star to dim every 365.25 Earth days. Orbits are predictable.

However, the light coming from KIC8462852 dimmed at times that was not regular. This led to two possibilities. The first explanation was there are a swarm of comets orbiting the star. The other explanation was that there was a megastructure built by alien technology that orbited the star.

What is a Dyson Sphere?

GHAHENNA_PRIME_Dyson_sphere_stage_1A The basic function behind a Dyson Sphere is to absorb the energy that the star is giving off. Stars give off massive amounts of energy. Our planet only absorbs a portion of that energy. Technology created that could absorb more of this energy has the potential to power our needs for lifetimes. A Dyson Sphere would surround the star and orbit around it like an outside layer.

The term actually comes from a 1960 paper wrote by Freeman Dyson. In it, he proposed the idea that instead of looking directly for aliens, we look for structures that they may have built. One structure theorized is the Dyson Sphere. He said that an advanced race of extraterrestrials would need massive amounts of energy if they wanted to support their civilization. By looking for these, we would be able to locate the existence of aliens. He also set down methods of locating a Dyson Sphere. Something that massive and absorbing that much energy would have to give off infrared radiation. By looking for this radiation, we could locate a Dyson Sphere.

Astronomers compared what they observed from KIC8462852 to what a theorized Dyson Sphere would give off. To much disappointment, it didn’t give off any radiation. Other explanations would be collisions by asteroids. However, this was quickly ruled out. If it was this, it would leave behind warmer signatures that what was being observed.  This indicated that something colder was orbiting the planet. Even from the start, though, astronomers thought that it would most than likely be a swarm of comets. However, much observation will be needed in order to completely rule out one or the other.

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