Scientists are scrambling to take a closer look at a “mysterious” star in the Milky Way Galaxy, which could potentially signify the existence of an extraterrestrial civilisation. The distant star was spotted with a strange mess of objects spinning around it, which causes it to emit the strangest light pattern among the stars monitored by the Kepler Space Telescope.

Kepler astronomers and citizen scientists, who are part of the Planet Hunters programme of NASA, are still observing the light pattern of the star. Astronomers say that the big mess of matter circling the star in tight formation has been affecting its light pattern.

The mess led astronomers to first believe that the star was young, as a similar messy disk of dust and debris also surrounded the sun when the solar system first formed, before planets and rings of rock and ice also formed due to gravity.

However, it has been found that the star appears to be mature. To be identified as a young star, it should have extra infrared light due to the surrounding dust or mess of objects circling it, but no infrared light was observed on the mysterious star.

The mess was observed to be big enough that it can prevent a substantial number of photons to be beamed into the tube of the Kepler Space Telescope. The star and its unusual light pattern have been observed by the Kepler Space Telescope since 2009.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoctoral at Yale, told The Atlantic. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”

The star could be observed through telescopes in the sky of the Northern hemisphere, above the Milky Way. It has been found hovering between the two constellations, Cygnus the swan and Lyra, which is invisible to the naked eye, The Atlantic reported.

A study by Boyajian has recently been published that explores several scenarios to explain the unusual light pattern.The scenarios include instrument defects, shrapnel from an asteroid belt pileup, and an impact of planetary scale, like the process that created the moon.

However, Boyajian noted that the study only reviews the “natural” scenarios, but she was still considering “other scenarios” to explain the bizarre pattern. Experts consider the possible existence of distant extraterrestrial civilisations, and a new study is to be published highlighting the possibility.

The author, Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, said that the light pattern of the distant star has been consistent with a “swarm of megastructures.” The structures could be stellar-light collectors, the technology that can catch energy from the star.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright said. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilisation to build.”

Wright has collaborated with Boyajian and Andrew Siemion, director of the SETI Research Centre at the University of California, Berkeley, to write a proposal suggesting a massive radio dish to be pointed at the star to observe if it emits radio waves at frequencies linked with technological activity. The next step would be using the Very Large Array, or VLA, in New Mexico to verify if the potential radio waves are from a technological source.

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