Mysterious happenings around the star KIC 846852
The Kepler satellite was designed to search for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of stars by measuring dips in a star's brightness as orbiting planets move across the stellar disc (transits). Its sensitive camera stares at more than 150,000 stars towards the constellations of Cygnus and Lyrae, and so far has found over 5000 exoplanet candidates. But Kepler also monitors the light fluctuations in all the other stars, even dips not caused by transits, and has found some bizarre situations.
|Star KIC 8462852 in infrared (2MASS survey) and ultraviolet (GALEX) |
[Credit: Infrared: IPAC/NASA Ultraviolet: STScI (NASA)]
CfA astronomers Mike Dunham, Glen Petitpas, and Lars Kristensen, and their colleagues, realized that if a cloud of dust particles were present in the stellar system, it should be detectable at submillimeter and millimeter wavelengths because of its warm temperature. They used the Submillimeter Array and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope to search for any such dust. They found no signs of it.
The cause of such a dramatic event, however, is not understood, and meanwhile other imaginable scenarios are still allowable, but the new results put a firm limit on the amount of dusty material around this strange and unique star.
The findings are published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.
Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [May 16, 2016]