Pulsation period variations in the RRc Lyrae star KIC 5520878

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Learned et al. proposed that a sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrial civilization may tickle Cepheid and RR Lyrae variable stars with a neutrino beam at the right time, thus causing them to trigger early and jogging the otherwise very regular phase of their expansion and contraction. This would turn these stars into beacons to transmit information throughout the galaxy and beyond. The idea is to search for signs of phase modulation (in the regime of short pulse duration) and patterns, which could be indicative of intentional, omnidirectional signaling. We have performed such a search among variable stars using photometric data from the Kepler space telescope. In the RRc Lyrae star KIC 5520878, we have found two such regimes of long and short pulse durations. The sequence of period lengths, expressed as time series data, is strongly autocorrelated, with correlation coefficients of prime numbers being significantly higher (p = 99.8%). Our analysis of this candidate star shows that the prime number oddity originates from two simultaneous pulsation periods and is likely of natural origin. Simple physical models elucidate the frequency content and asymmetries of the KIC 5520878 light curve. Despite this SETI null result, we encourage testing of other archival and future time-series photometry for signs of modulated stars. This can be done as a by-product to the standard analysis, and can even be partly automated.


stars, variables, Cepheids, stars, variables, RR Lyrae

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