May 11, 2013 the Kepler space telescope ended its primary mission. Data captured until then showed that the now famous "Tabby's star" or "Boyajian's star" (KIC 8462852) had been fading throughout the Kepler mission by about 3% cumulatively. (This independently of other reports of brief very deep dimmings and restorations during the mission.)


Today when I post this question, about as much time has passed by since the primary Kepler mission ended, as that mission lasted. So this makes me wonder if other telescopes have observed, or should've been sensitive enough to have observed, a continuation of such a fading trend for that star? Another 3%.


If not, what could the explanation be for why this 3+ year fading trend was suddenly interrupted when the primary Kepler telescope mission was terminated? And how long would it take to determine from ground based observatories whether this particular dimming trend continues or not?

enter image description here Fig. 5 from the paper by Montet and Simon 2016.

  • $\begingroup$ Please summarise what Montet & Simon say about it. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Nov 22 '16 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ @RobJeffries I can't do it better than they do in their executive summary and conclusions. If you want it in one sentence: They basically point out that the data is unique to the Kepler space telescope and that no known astrophysical model can explain it. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Nov 22 '16 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ I edited and then rolled back again and thought I had better get you to do it. Tabby's star is not astronomical nomenclature and it is not referred to by this name in the proper astronomical literature, only in popular news articles. Possibly you could get away with Boyajian's star, though I doubt that name will stick. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Nov 23 '16 at 0:39

Well "if no known astrophysical model can explain it" then nobody told Wright & Sigurdsson (2016) who, cognisant of Montet & Simon's results, explore a number of astrophysical models. They conclude by saying that the most "plausible model" is that of small scale intervening material between us and the star that may be responsible for the short-term dips and the secular dimming. Lacki (2016) appears to agree.

Wright & Sigurdsson also consider and largely rule out or class as unlikely a number of other possibilities, including artificial structures.

The Gaia satellite has been observing this star (and a billion others) since December 2013, but so far the photometry time series has not been released. This should become available towards the end of next year and will probably exceed the accuracy of the Kepler data. In the meantime, it has been claimed by Hippke et al. (2016) that the star was relatively constant between 1934 and 1995 in contradiction to previous claims of a progressive dimming over the last century.

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