There is perhaps no technology quite as awe inspiring as that of a Dyson sphere, and any civilizations able to build one would be profoundly more advanced and scientifically sophisticated that the human race.
Recently, the internet has been buzzing with news of a strange object that appears to be orbiting a distance star 1,500 light years away. This object is known to be blocking a huge amount of light, and scientists have suggested that this possible megastructure could be technologically manufactured by an intelligence far in advance of our own, and that it could be a Dyson Sphere.
A Dyson Sphere is a mega-structure popularized by the famous theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, who in 1960 with a paper “”Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-red Radiation”” speculated that an advanced civilization could completely encompass a star and capture all of its power output for their use. While popularized by Dyson, the concept was first described by the British science fiction author Olaf Stapeldon in his seminal work Starmaker.
The star currently in question is KIC 8462852 and is about 1.5 times bigger than the Sun. It’s light has been found to reduce by 20% on multiple occasions due to the orbit of an unfathomably huge object that is believed to be approximately half the size of the star itself. These dips have been shown to occur at random across the 4.4 year period that the star has been observed.
A study on this by a reputable team of scientists has been printed on the famous arXiv, and is titled “Planet Hunters X. KIC 8462852 – Where’s the flux?”
In the paper, it’s suggested that a plausible explanation for the dip in light would be due to debris left from comets breaking up around the star. However, this would believed to produce large amounts of infra-red radiation which is not something that was observed. This led the team of scientists to propose the idea that an alien civilization could be the cause, or more specifically, that a Dyson sphere is being constructed around the star.
A civilization that constructed a Dyson sphere would automatically be promoted to what’s called a type II civilization on the famous Kardashev scale. The scale is hypothetical, and relates to the energy consumption of a civilization on a cosmic scale and was first proposed by the Soviet astronomer, Nikolai Kardashev, in 1964.
The Kardashev scale measures a civilization’s level of technological advancement, by looking at the the amount of energy it’s able to utilize. The scale is as follows:
- A Type I civilization is able to utilize and store energy available from its neighboring star which reaches their planet.
- A Type II is able to harness the energy of the entire star .
- A Type III civilization are in control of energy on the scale of their entire host galaxy.
A civilization becomes more advanced, it will typically require larger amounts of energy to continue to grow. It has been proposed that a Dyson sphere is the best way to harness the energy from a sun.
The researchers who published the arXiv paper are planning on using large telescopes to actually observe the star in much better detail to observe whether it is producing any unexpected signals. A tantalizing possibility is that the star is surrounded by a partially completed Dyson sphere, a remnant of an ancient hyper civilization that went extinct.