Triolet for Tabby’s Star

Artist’s rendering of Tabby’s Star by NASA

This week’s prompt for the Rattlecast was to write a poem about a scientific discovery, and I ended up writing about Tabby’s Star. First discovered in 2015 by amateur scientists looking for exoplanets in data from the Keppler telescope, the star KIC 8462852’s dimming was like nothing ever found before—it’s irregular and huge and without a corresponding drop at infrared wavelengths. Something huge and strangely shaped orbits this star, periodically blocking out up to 22% of it’s light.

Tabby’s Star is only slightly larger than our sun, and it would take a planet many times larger than Jupiter to block that much light—oh, and the planet would have to be shaped like a triangle.

It was fun to imagine it might be aliens. Maybe it’s a massive armada of starships refueling 1,500 light years away. Maybe it’s a Dyson swarm of huge satellites powering an advanced civilization. Maybe we’re not alone.

For years there really wasn’t a plausible explanation; the behavior was too odd. But last year a new paper came out that probably explains it: A detached moon the size of Mars could be orbiting the planet, slowly breaking apart and creating a ring of dust around the star like the mother of all comets. And sadly, the modeling works out—such an event is possible and really would look like this from our perspective.

Space retains its eerie silence. The Fermi Paradox lives on.

_________

Triolet for Tabby’s Star

Why is it such a rare and fragile thing
to find a ring around a star so like our own?
The galaxies stretch out like jewels upon a string—
why is it such a rare and fragile thing?
More spheres than grains of sand—but they don’t sing.
There’s too much room for us to fill alone.
Why is it such a rare and fragile thing
to find a ring around a star so like our own?

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