The binary star Epsilon Aurigae is one of the most mysterious binary systems astronomers currently observe. Part of the reason for this is the strange disc-like eclipse that passes between Earth and the system like clockwork every 25 years. The twin stars are 2,000 light years from Earth, but still have captured the imagination of astronomers worldwide.
Many have speculated on the cause of the eclipse. Whatever it is, it must be traveling at incredible speeds if traveling around the binary system from far enough away to actually noticeably dim the light from both objects. The eclipsing body must also be considerably large. The closest thing astronomers can get to a shape of the object is a massive flattened disc or sphere.
Those poking fun at the astronomical anomaly made reference to everything from the monoliths from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010 to the Death Star from Star Wars. Of course this humor is a standard response considering at its core we have no idea what’s going on. A generalized statement from the astronomical society says that amateur astronomers, if they have a telescope, can help solve the mystery. Of course this seems more like a PR move to improve interest in astronomy (which is picking up significantly after massive discoveries in recent years by amateur astronomers) than a call to action.
Some speculate that the object passing between us and the binary system is likely made up of space debris or a nebulous cloud that doesn’t allow light to penetrate. It could also be something made by intelligent hands, of course. “Maybe it’s a giant mothership on a long 25 year long patrol of the area. Whoever figures that out will have to ride up with Will Smith and blow the thing up.” The tongue in cheek comment was one of hundreds posted about the quadricentennial quandary.
Another interesting theory is that the binary system is perfect for a sort of fractional dyson sphere. As you may know, a dyson sphere is a theoretical creation where a bubble is created around a star so all of the energy can be collected on the inside and stored or insulated to run incredibly power intensive systems. Weather is fully regulated by electronic systems. A full dyson sphere around a binary system may require too much material to truly be effective, and may pose serious gravitational problems, but an ultra thin ring-like device rotating around the system may be able to survive without being crushed by the combined gravitational pull of the system if made by sufficiently strong materials. As the ring rotates, it could collect solar energy and power an entire civilization on the outside of the ring. Is it possible such an object could have been engineered by an incredibly advanced society?
So what is it? A massive alien artifact larger than anything we have previously fathomed? A mere cloud of space debris? Perhaps this incredible secret will finally be discovered, or perhaps Epsilon Aurigae will join the legion of other mysteries about our universe that will remain forever unexplainable.