By Scott Campbell | Cambridge News
Famous Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking is leading a team of scientists investigating a possible ‘alien megastructure’ orbiting a distant star.
Prof Hawking is spearheading an £81million project to find out whether aliens are responsible for the mysterious behaviour of a star called KIC8462852, or Tabby’s Star.
Tabby’s Star can be seen dimming in regular cycles which some analysts say is a sign of a Dyson Sphere – a hypothetical structure which could be used by an alien race to harness energy.
Jason Wright of Penn State University said the signals looked like something “an alien civilisation could build”.
He said: “I can’t figure this thing out and that’s why it’s so interesting, so cool – it just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
Now scientists at the University of California are planning to use a huge telescope to examine the object – which is located more than 1,400 light years from Earth – more closely over the next decade.
Although the star has been examined with Hubble and other powerful instruments, researchers plan to use new technologies to observe it over a period of three nights.
The object will be examined more closely than ever before generating a huge amount of data by a team of SETI scientists – which stands for the ‘search for extra terrestrial intelligence’.
Research director Andrew Siemion said: “Everyone, every SETI program telescope, I mean every astronomer that has any kind of telescope in any wavelength that can see Tabby’s star has looked at it.