A star about 11 light-years from Earth might be a weirdo.
Scientists using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico took a look at the relatively small red star — named Ross 128 — in May, but last week, researchers noticed something kind of odd in the 10 minutes of data.
The signal picked up by the observatory seems to show the star pulsing in deep space, but astronomers still aren’t sure exactly what the cause of that signal might be.
So what is it? Is this star just a little wacky? Is the signal being emitted by something else entirely? Maybe it’s the kind of star that just likes playing by its own rules.
Of course, the answer could be pretty mundane.
According to astrobiologist Abel Méndez, the signal might be caused by solar flares or another object not far from Ross 128. It could even be caused by a satellite far closer to Earth than the distant star.
But none of those explanations are a perfect fit.
“This is the first time [I’ve seen] a signal like that,” Méndez said via Twitter message.
“The star might be having a flaring period but the frequency range is not consistent with previous similar events for the sun and red dwarf stars.”
And yeah, I guess it could be aliens, but seriously, that’s the last option on a very long list.
“In case you are wondering, the recurrent aliens hypothesis is at the bottom of many other better explanations,” Méndez wrote in an update about the star.
Red dwarf stars like Ross 128 represent the most common kind of star known to astronomers today, so learning more about them could help researchers gather more data about a huge population of stars not far from us.
Méndez and his team were able to observe Ross 128 on July 16, so hopefully they’ll know if it’s an actual signal from deep space or if it’s more terrestrial in origin.
For his part, Méndez is hoping for a deep space signal.
“I have a Piña Colada ready to celebrate if the signals result to be astronomical in nature,” he wrote.
Scientists are now submitting their ideas for what the signal could be caused by using an online form. The researchers hope to announce the results of the July 16 observations at some point this week.