Will Orbiting Space Colonies Trump Planets? (A Galaxy Classic)
"Smart Dust" -From SciFi to Reality: The Coming Era of Sensor Computing

The Cygnus Bubble - Natural or Artificial?

Cygnus bubble detail_4m Mayall NOAO (1) Is the solar-system sized bubble in the Consellation Cygnus a planetary nebulae or could it be an "AC" or astroengineering construction, also known as a Dyson sphere, named after Freeman Dyson of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study who proposed the theory? Dyson's thought experiment suggested that in our search for advanced extraterrrestrial civilizations that Instead of radio signals we should look for spheres, which are artificial mega structures that enclose the orbit of a star, fabricated from the material of that solar system. The key is to distinguish a Dyson sphere from natural dust components. The Dyson sphere is the marker of what Kardashev calls a Type 2 civilization, which is capable of using up all the energy produced by a star. A Type three civilization uses up all the energy produced by a galaxy."

ACs are expected to have spectra similar to the black-body spectra because they re-emit all the energy that they absorb, although in the infrared range.

"Fermi Bubbles" is the term used by Richard Carrigan at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in his latest work on the search for artifacts like Dyson spheres or Kardashev civilizations. A Fermi bubble according to Carrigan would grow as the civilization creating it colonized space. Carrigan notes that, as Carl Sagan and others have observed, that the time to colonize an individual system is small compared to the travel time between stars. A civilization could engulf its galaxy on a time scale comparable to the rotation period of the Milky Way, or every 225–250 million years, and perhaps, fewer.

According to Carrigan, of the 11,224 potential sources of low range emissions identified that might be a manifestation of Dyson spheres in the Milky Way there are only 16 that have strong potential.

Casey Kazan


Absolutely wonderful article.

Perhaps we could fuse two concepts, then ask the question, is there a solar system near the bubble that will go nova or demise like our sun will?

That time frame is when space travel is most necessary, since those species that stick around that star are going to become extinct.


holy crap that thing is real.
Sorry I just thought it was another of those fake pictures that so often appear on this site.

this is wonderful.

I find it very difficult to believe that that could be a naturally occuring nebula. Have we EVER seen a "prefectly" spherical nebula before?

Aliens? Awesome.

holy crap that thing is real.
Sorry I just thought it was another of those fake pictures that so often appear on this site.

this is wonderful.

I find it very difficult to believe that that could be a naturally occuring nebula. Have we EVER seen a "prefectly" spherical nebula before?

Aliens? Awesome.

looks like the telescope had a droplet of water on the lense, tough luck :))

OK, Im impressed. That actually makes sense dude.


Nature is full of spheres, and this one is clearly not a "perfect" sphere. I can't see any reason why it wouldn't be natural.

Of course, that doesn't rule out aliens either.

Incidentally, even if it's aliens this is not quite what Dyson had in mind. Does anyone else notice that the bubble is transparent? that means that, for one thing, it's not capturing anywhere near 100% of any star's energy (otherwise, we wouldn't see what's behind it, or indeed even see the sphere itself unless it were illuminated by an external light source). I'm pretty sure that Dyson envisioned something that would have creatures not too unlike ourselves living on the interior surface. Considering this structure's transparency, it's likely either made of plexiglas (or transparent aluminum - for all the Trekkies out there) or it's made of dust-like particles (could be "smart dust", but probably the regular "dumb" variety).

Still - hell of a great photo.

Derrick, I thought exactly the same thing, but then I remembered that Einstein performed an experiment which ended up determining that due to gravitational distortions from large objects, we can in fact see light that comes from behind something like our star, it ends up going around the star.

Food for thought.



Who said the surface of the sphere had to be solid to contain life, and who said it must be completely solid? There is no reason for a dyson sphere not to be a lattice system supporting habitable panels (which could be moved back as the star ages, or to prevent overpressure from solar wind), or even possibly made of something similar to a solar sail used to collect the energy.

This is a great big "could be" situation, there's no need to poo-poo it.

It could be coated in those funky light-bending nano-particles...

Must be some solar system sized force field. Maybe we found the Blue System? xD

This is a science site? Really? This "article" is the biggest load of horse poop I've read in a long time and has nothing in common with "science."

Whorse poop indeed. I propose it is a life form unto itself. Poppy cock.

a rocket blasting at
1 g for 1 year = 1x light speed

as time for the traveller slows down
anywhere in the universe is a 2 year journey

far far far far far far easier than one of those doo-hickeys
nice photo

Science is a process where a hypothesis is proposed, tested and then either rejected or not rejected. This article is talking about a hypothesis not a fact. Use your imagination and this could be a possible explanation for things like the Cygnus bubble. However, I will say that the Dyson bubble concept seems a bit like a 20th century idea applied to an advanced civilization. We are basically applying the concept of solar panels to a society that would likely be far beyond that.

What I mean is, would a extremely advanced civilization need to build such a massive structure in order to produce immense amounts of energy? My intuition says no. Why not build a structure much closer to the star perhaps in an orbit near where you would find Venus. The density of energy must be many times higher than it is at the edge of the system. Or why not tap the stars' energy directly? If they are capable of engineering such a massive structure what would prevent them from developing other more compact forms of energy technology? Further, if the civilization uses so much energy and advances (technologically) at a very rapid pace wouldn't they either a) invent something better very soon after building such a structure or b) quickly overcome the production capacity of such a structure... Makes me think a dyson/fermi sphere would have nothing to do with energy production and more to do with something like shelter from radiation or cosmic collisions...

However, it seems I am thinking "structure" much like building is a rigid structure. But what if such an advanced civilization has created some sort of particulate matter, nano-particle (something cheap to manufacture in the trillions) that seeks out a specific distance from the gravitational center of a system or reacts to some other sources in order to align in network and produce something (be it energy, shelter, etc).

So while I won't completely dispel the idea of a dyson bubble I cannot find good reasons (using my puny human brain) for a civilization to build such a structure. And in the same note there have been plenty of well supported theories on how spherical nebulae can be created via natural phenomenon. Or maybe a civilization accidentally blew itself up trying to power-up some sort of futuristic research contraption ;-]

I cannot see what purpose a civilization would have in building a Dyson Sphere. Surely they could colonize the entire Galaxy by using the same amount of resources, technology and energy it would take to build this thing. I don't see any practical purpose for it.

Nik - You're talking about invitational lensing. Good thought, but I don't think that's what we're seeing here. I'm no astronomer, but this doesn't look like any of the lensing effects I've read about. Thanks!

"3" - I'm not "poo pooing" anyone! I did not say it cannot be a Dyson sphere, and if others think it is that's cool. I'm just stating my opinion and trying to have a discussion about a very cool topic.

Your lattice idea is very interesting, though Dyson did not envision a lattice (hence my comment, but no I hadn't thought of the lattice until I read your post). The whole idea of a sphere is to capture all or most of the sun's energy, though as Lee points out a sufficiently advanced species might not need to build a sphere for that purpose. On the other hand, the surface area of either a sphere or lattice that size would be sufficient to host truly monumental population - say goodbye to overcrowding! It might be easier to build a giant ring, rather than a sphere, but if you start building more and more rings, and then interconnecting them... voila! Lattice! Like I said - cool idea.

I wonder if there's any way your lattice hypothesis can be tested using current technology? Such a structure would very likely appear somewhat transparent at such great distances (like a window screen). In fact, even if one were to attempt to build a full, solid sphere, it's likely that such a lattice would be an intermediary step - we could be looking at the largest construction site any human has ever seen.

At the end of the day, however, we have detected (with some degree of certainty) more space dust than I have the language to quantify (many, many, many billions of tons of the stuff, just here in out own solar system). We've detected (with some degree of certainty) exactly zero aliens. while I do believe they're probably out there, until we find them Occam's razor strongly suggests we're looking at dust, not little green dudes.
(But boy do I hope I'm wrong... as long as they're friendly)

When a person does a thought experiment, what they are actually doing is imagining. They are using their imagination to produce a subjective supposition. We should refer to these exercizes as imaginings. They are not properly scientific in nature. They really are not experiments in a scientific sense.

Wasn't a Dyson sphere actually a bunch of orbiting platforms that got so dense that they hid the star ? I don't believe he actually considered a solid sphere. The structural requiements are worse than the ringworld, which is merely impossible (according to Niven)

william said:
"a rocket blasting at
1 g for 1 year = 1x light speed

as time for the traveller slows down
anywhere in the universe is a 2 year journey"

Assuming you could accomplish the premise, you still could only go 2 lightyears distance in a 2 year period.


Actually William is correct. If you were on a ship traveling close to speed of light time slows down rather significantly above 0.9c


At .995c every 1 year of ship time corresponds to 10 years of proper time. This is the kind of stuff they test at LHC btw.

if an advanced extraterrestial civilisation would set a sign - the astroengineers of such a supercivilization would set a supersign -
like a triangle in a sphere or similar...

The one thing that really troubles me about a Dyson sphere is where doe's all the heat and radiation from the sun go? its trapped inside the sphere! so I assume the inside of the sphere is as hot as the sun???

It's all very well getting excited about time dilation at near light speeds, but most people fail to take into account the cost of collision at such speeds.

If travelling at just 10% of the speed of light, hitting a dollar bill floating in space would impart the same energy as crashing a Boeing 747 at 4,000 miles per hour, but concentrated into a few square inches.

At 90% of the speed of light, hitting the same dollar bill would impart over 36 Terajoules of energy, or the same as almost 100 airliners simultaneously hitting you at 4,000 miles per hour.

Assuming one could build a realistically spaceship which was strong enough to safely withstand a 747 hitting it at only 100 miles per hour, then the fastest it could travel and safely hit a dollar bill in its path is only 0.2% (1/500th) of the speed of light, or 450 miles per second - at which velocity the effects of time dilation are so negligible as to be unnoticeable.

Any faster than that, and the ship would be destroyed by hitting anything with more mass than a dollar bill. Hitting even a small stone would be devastating.

Maybe that explains dark matter...it's all enclosed in Dyson spheres.

Perhaps this is but another of god's jokes on the universe, a bubble fart.

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