The most mysterious star in the Milky Way is at it again.
Astronomers are sounding the alarms Friday as telescope observations detect unusual light patterns coming from a distant star located about 1,300 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, in the outer edges of the galaxy. The mysterious dimming and flickering of the star, first discovered in 2011, means something is passing in front of it. It has puzzled astronomers ever since, but this is the first time they’ve seen it dimming in real time, presenting an extraordinary opportunity to observe whatever it is that’s blocking the star’s light.
So it’s quite understandable that they’re kind of, well, losing it on Twitter right now:
ALERT:@tsboyajian's star is dipping— Jason Wright (@Astro_Wright) May 19, 2017
This is not a drill.
Astro tweeps on telescopes in the next 48 hours: spectra please!
Tabetha Boyajian, an astronomer at the Louisiana State University, and Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University, are among the scientists working on solving the mystery of KIC 8462852, sometimes nicknamed Tabby’s Star for Boyajian. The first observations of the star came from the Kepler Space Telescope, which has been tracking the brightness of stars since 2009, looking for small dips in their light—hints that an exoplanet or two (or seven) may be lurking. Astronomers made Kepler data available to the public through a program called Planet Hunters, encouraging “citizen scientists” to join in the search for exoplanets. In 2011, a group of volunteers noticed strange light patterns coming from KIC 8462852. They hadn’t seen anything like it in the 150,000 stars Kepler had observed.