Your contributions --> observations!
It is a pleasure to announce that as of April 1, 2017, we are now taking photometric data of KIC 8462852 with the LCO 0.4m network thanks to the funds raised by YOU via Kickstarter! We are now paid in full for monitoring our star until June 1, 2018. But that is not all: we still have a couple lose ends to tie up for the project's reimbursements, and I estimate that the remaining funds will cover telescope time until November 30, 2018. What an amazing success!
Data are streaming in and we continue to refine our pipeline to improve on the quality and automated routines to identify the next dip. As mentioned in the last report, a sensitive time for us to watch began and the end of February 2017, where an object with a 727 day orbital period would have passed in front of the star and made a drop in light. The 727 days corresponded to the time interval between the two largest dips in the Kepler data at day 792 (18%) and day 1519 (22%). These dips look nothing alike each other, but the idea is that the occulter could be changing shape (for whatever reason) throughout its orbit. Alas, no dip was recovered during this time. However, if we take the same argument and relax the time the second dip occurred, the "sensitive" window remains open for a few more months. We may relax the time the second dip (at day 1519) occurs because it was not alone - it came in a huge complex of dips spanning almost 100 days, where any of these objects could possibly re-enter our line of sight and produce another dip. Another issue with the proposed 727 day orbital period (big dip to big dip) was that we should have seen an additional big dip around day 65 of the Kepler dataset, and we did not (this assumes the 727 day orbital period, and projecting it back in time from the 18% dip that occurred at day 792). Finally, an analysis of historic records reveal a putative dip that occurred October 24 1978, which also fails to match any regularity in the timing of when dips occur.
I know what you are thinking - these aren't great guesses to what and when things might happen. But remember, if we could predict anything that the star would be doing, we wouldn't have to be monitoring it like we are now. Knowing when it is and when it is not dipping are important to figuring out what is happening. And from what we have learned of the star so far, it doesn't do what we expect it to do.
Another item worth noting is that we just submitted a proposal to look at the star with the Hubble Space Telescope. This is motivated by the fundamental question of where in space (circumstellar or interstellar) the occulting bodies lie. We plan to study this by observing the star in the ultraviolet along with a control star in the same volume of space. The ultraviolet is by far the most sensitive region for assessing absorption along the line of sight, both in terms of individual (gas) absorbers and broad-wavelength (dusty) extinction. We wont learn of the proposal's success (or failure) until sometime this summer after the panel meets for peer review. Hubble time is very competitive (typically a 10-1 shot of acceptance) so fingers crossed!
~Tabby et al.