Sometimes I love to say ‘I told you so,’ though in the world of science it’s more like ‘I gave you a high probability of this plausible scenario.’ A little while back a story broke about a star called KIC 8462852, with a strange ring of material surrounding it. One potential explanation was that an extraterrestrial civilization has constructed a giant ring to harvest it’s home star’s energy. Though this was one of a dozen possible explanations, it of course gathered the most steam among the general populace.
In a statement today, officials from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) confirmed that no radio signals of any sort that could represent a civilization were observed when looking at KIC 8462852.
“The history of astronomy tells us that, every time we thought we had found a phenomenon due to the activities of extraterrestrials, we were wrong,” SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak said in a statement. “But although it’s quite likely that this star’s strange behavior is due to nature, not aliens, it’s only prudent to check things out.”
Granted, there could be some advanced form of communication used by an intelligent race that we just can’t pick up, but any civilization with enough infrastructure to harness the energy of a star would have to be sending out some sort of radio signal.
Ever heard the idea ‘If you hear galloping, expect a horse, not a zebra?” It’s the idea that when you get something strange, it’s much more likely to be a commonly known concept presenting in an uncommon way. In other words, if you hear galloping and neighing, don’t think you’re going to turn around to see a zebra. It’s a big idea in medicine, with common illnesses presenting in uncommon ways.
All things considered, a scientific mind can’t rule out the possibility of alien life around this star being responsible for what we see, but the same sceptical mind also knows that there are far more likely scenarios that don’t require extraordinary circumstances. In the case of KIC 8462852, a likely swarm of comets sent on inward trajectories due to a gravitational interaction with another body.
Let’s look somewhere else for aliens.