The Bizarre Mysteries of Space

Something is blocking us from seeing the light from a faraway star

A star approximately 1,500 light years away from us, unofficially named “Tabby’s Star” or KIC 8462852, is notable for having another, much less formal nickname: “WTF star.” In this instance, WTF stands for two different acronyms, the more polite one being “where’s the flux?” That’s because something–and to date, scientists aren’t sure what–is blocking us from seeing approximately 20% of the light from the star.

Theories on what could be blocking the light range wildly: Tabetha Boyajian, who the star is named for, speculated that it could be a Dyson Swarm, a theoretical megastructure proposed to be used by advanced civilizations to harvest energy output from a star. Of course, this explanation hasn’t sat well with anyone, and from the time Boyajian announced her findings of the star’s odd pattern of dimming in 2013, various scientists have sought to explain the variability and dimness, with the most recent papers published in 2019. However, to date, nothing has fully explained why the star is being blocked.