Civilian astronomers participating in the Kepler Planet Hunters program have identified unusual patterns in the light output of a star that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye — patterns that are being caused by an as yet unknown process. This appears to be some sort of huge debris field–or is it a field of artifacts created by an advanced alien civilization?

The star in question, KIC 8462852, is 1,500 light-years away, lies between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It was included as part of observations being made by the Kepler Space Telescope, which seeks signs of exoplanets around stars, by watching for dips in the stars’ light output.

NASA has just announced the discovery of an earth-like planet orbiting a star similar to our sun, and within the star’s habitable zone. The planet has been designated Kepler-452b, and is the first such planet ever discovered. So far, nearly 4000 planets have been discovered in so-called ‘goldilocks zones’ around distant stars–regions where they are neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life. But all of these planets have been determined to be either very small, very large, or gas giants. Kepler-452b is a "bigger cousin of Earth." It has a 385 day orbit and is 5% farther from its star than Earth is from the sun. Its parent star is Kepler-452. It also has gravity twice that of Earth’s.

Britain’s Astronomer Royal, Prof Lord Rees, says that if we were to make contact with extraterrestrials from outside our solar system, it would be with intelligent machines, rather than with organic aliens.

While addressing an audience at the Cheltenham Science Festival last week, Rees said that an incoming SETI-like signal would likely be from machines built by a previous extraterrestrial civilization, since machines would be more suited to the rigors of space travel, as opposed to their biological creators, who are likely to have died out long beforehand.

Throughout the literature of the close encounter experience and the narrative of many witnesses there is an undertone of material that seems to have a relationship to the tantric disciplines of the far east. In addition, there is in the west a long tradition of stories of attacks by entities known as incubi and succubi, that is repeated in close enconter stories. So what’s this all about? Whitley Strieber and Peter Levenda discuss this aspect of the experience.