One of the most effective ways at detecting extraterrestrial planets in the universe is by using a technique called the transit method. In the cases where planets come between their star and us, the planet blocks out a small amount of light that would usually reach us. Astronomers can detect this small difference in light and know that the star has a planet orbiting around it. Additionally, by calculating the small decrease in light, astronomers can estimate the size of the planet. The larger the decrease in light, the bigger the planet will be.
A most puzzling observation has been made, though. The star of KIC 8462852, or Tabby’s Star named after the observer, has been steadily decreasing. Unlike if a planet crossed our path, the star has a more significant decrease in light and without a rebound. For a 1000-day sample, the star was reported to decrease .34 percent every year. Then to more of a surprise, over the next 200 days, it dropped by 2.5% then leveled out. So what can be happening with this mysterious star? One theory is that a comet or destroyed planet is orbiting close to the star and is blocking out some of its light. Others turn to more exciting theories like aliens. Some theorize that an alien structure might have been built around it to capture its energy. Nobody can be sure until another year of investigations is conducted by pointing a telescope to Tabby’s Star.
Also occurring in about a year will be a solar eclipse over all of America. On August 21st, 2017, people from coast to coast will experience the moon crossing almost exactly in front of the sun. Here in Norwood, we will see about an 85% total eclipse. This means that all but 15% of the sun will be blocked out by the moon. In order to see this rare occurrence in its full glory, a drive of 500 miles up to about Casper Wyoming would be required. This would probably be the closest we can get to see the total solar eclipse. This is definitely worth the trip, though, as one has not occurred in over 38 years! In the brief time of 2 minutes and 20 seconds that we will see the moon block the sun, think about how miraculous it is that we can observe such a spectacle. In the day time, if the sun and moon were at equal distances away, the sun would be 400% larger than the moon. It just so happens, though, that our sun resides at a distance 400% further than the moon. This makes the sizes of each body line up perfectly. The reason that we don’t have eclipses like this all the time is that the moon’s orbit is tilted 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit. This makes it very difficult for the sun, moon, and Earth to line up in perfect order. Go experience darkness in the middle of the day during this eclipse!