The Search For The Third Kind

This spring, one of the world's largest radio telescopes will listen for alien signals around a distant star

Green Bank Telescope
One of the nearly 400 late night images of the Green Bank telescope in West Virginia.Mike Zorger

Something bizarre is happening to KIC 8462852, a star located 1,480 light-years from Earth. Its glow dims significantly and at irregular intervals. The cause could be asymmetry in the star, or it could be the shadow of a family of comets, for example, or a megastructure built by an advanced civilization.

SETI's Allen Telescope Array recently searched the skies to no avail, so this spring, scientists plan to investigate using the Green Bank Telescope. It is far more sensitive than the array and is equipped to scan 1.5 billion radio frequencies simultaneously.

328: Diameter, in feet, of the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope

If the object is built, we might be able to detect radio signals, like those of earthly electronics, from its makers. Whatever Green Bank reveals (we’re hoping aliens), it will be new to science.

To see updated reports on what scientists have (or haven't) found, check out popsci.com/KIC.