EPIC-204278916 makes two, ‘Dyson Sphere’ stars that is. Hot off the press, right on the heels of reports that KIC-8462852 is getting weirder, to borrow a phrase from some, we have yet another ‘Dyson Sphere’ candidate. What is it with this hype? Is the universe that boring that we have to invent these ridiculous ideas about alien civilizations creating enormous megastructures around their host stars? No, I think its just a new iteration of the “Mars will be the size of the Full Moon” hoax that’s been floating around for over a decade, repackaged in different form to sell as many copies of a particular publication to the hoards of gullible idiots who would buy them or to pump up their subscription base.
Flash News: there are no alien Dyson Spheres -anywhere, not around KIC-8462852 or anywhere else. Although both have been target stars for the Kepler Orbiting Observatory, EPIC-204278916 is just to the west of Antares, the heart of Scorpius, well outside the originally designated Kepler field of interest in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky. The difference between this new case (EPIC-204278916) and KIC-8462852 (Tabby’s Star) is that EPIC-204278916 is a brand, spanking new M-class red dwarf with the circumstellar disk of gas and dust from formation still remaining- more or less- and its this disk that’s driving the star’s ‘peculiar’ light curve. QED, End Of Story – no alien Dyson Sphere. In my previous article on this topic, I describe the most likely and plausible explanation for the peculiarities observed with KIC-8462852’s light curve as being
consistent with a protracted ingress of higher density gas and dust of the Interstellar Medium (ISM) along our line of sight with the star. It can be stated differently, that the star’s decreasing light curve is being “reddened” by the steadily increasing density of the intervening ISM. The short, temporal fluctuations in the star’s brightness are consistent with the transit of smaller, varying density pockets of gas, dust and debris along our line of sight.
A litmus test to see if the publication you’re reading (if in electronic form) is really worthy of your time and patronage is as follows. Do they make it almost impossible to get to any story of interest because you’re inundated with pop-up ads, side bars full of the same or, if the very first thing they ask you when signing in is if you would like to take advantage of some new contrivance of theirs, some “limited time offer” or some such -and- they describe this second case, this new star (it is literally a “new” star) in terms of an alien Dyson sphere or “Mega-structure”? If the answer is “yes”, you should cancel your subscription as any reputable astronomical publication would not seriously publish such a story in these terms.
You may wonder how can I assert this claim so dogmatically and with so much certainty. Again, an excerpt from my previous piece
“…the big problem with the Alien Mega-Structure hypothesis is that the star does NOT present with the enormous heat signature such an artificial structure would produce, to say nothing of the energy necessary to mine and harvest the raw materials and resources to produce the object and what of the source of those raw materials? Given the density of Silicon (2.33), the basic raw material used in solar PV technology and assuming for the moment the alien Dyson Sphere was produced using some variant of this, the mass of a one-meter-thick shell with a 1 AU radius surrounding the star would be 8.5 E+26 Kg. The mass of Jupiter is 1.9 E+27 Kg. Assuming the shell has a density of 3 (the average density of the Earth is 5.5), you would need the entire mass of the planet Jupiter to produce the shell, an enterprise where a serious cost-benefit analysis would be required!
Additional problems in sequential logic follow, not limited to the following:
- any civilization that could mine and harvest the raw materials from a planet with the mass equivalent of Jupiter (as this is what would be required) would not need the Dyson sphere;
- the enormous thermal (IR) flux from the sphere would be quite problematic for the planet(‘s’) climate and the inhabitants of the planet(s), presumably located within the sphere;
- no civilization, no matter how advanced, could mine, harvest and transport the raw materials for such a structure, no less manufacture it; they would, literally, have to dismantle an entire planet with the mass equivalent of Jupiter;
- hypothetically, were they successful in constructing such a sphere, the entire gravitational dynamic between the star and planet(s) would change -dramatically. The first thing you learn in freshman physics is to consider a spherical body of radius ‘r’ with some mass ‘m’ as a “point mass” located at the center. Whether the mass is distributed as a one-meter-thick shell of 1 AU radius around the star or in a contiguous sphere with the same mass in orbit around the star, the fact remains that the affected planet(s) orbit(s) will now be forever altered -dramatically- by the displacement and addition of mass the equivalent of Jupiter.
And why is the astronomical community giving this nonsense a free pass? Am I the only one objecting to this? Any or all of the points described above should have been summarily caught and nipped in the bud -that this idea has survived, now in its second iteration, is a consequence of “crowd sourcing” the science, something that I will soon address in a follow-up piece.
This is more of a problem with the original notion of a Dyson Sphere than with the application of the idea by those less steeped in physics and astrophysics. The essence of wisdom is knowing our limitations, what we’re capable of achieving and what will forever remain fiction, no mater how advanced we are. The construction of a Dyson sphere around even around a cool, low-mass star such as EPIC 204278916 will forever remain in the realm of science fantasy, not even science fiction.
All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike-and yet it is the most precious thing we have
An index of all articles in this blog can be found here.