(NEWSER) – Something very weird has been spotted in space, and a quote from an astronomer at Penn State gets to the heart of why it's so intriguing: "Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build," Jason Wright tells the Atlantic.
The "this" he's referring to involves an unusual star in the Northern hemisphere's sky named KIC 8462852, one that the Kepler telescope first began looking at in 2009. Based on the weird light pattern it's emitting, the star appears to have a "big mess of matter" around it, writes Ross Anderson. The problem is that, based on the star's age and other factors, scientists can't explain why that "mess of matter" is there. In a new paper, they float a number of scientific explanations—"occultation by circumstellar dust clumps," for instance, or comets—but none mesh well with current scientific understanding. “We’d never seen anything like this star,” says lead author Tabetha Boyajian of Yale. “We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”