Early Thursday, a new and powerful effort was underway to explore a mystery 1,500 light-years away. West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope was sucking up information about a strange winking star.

The giant radio telescope is the biggest of its kind, with a 330-foot-wide parabolic dish, making the device the largest steerable telescope on Earth.

The new effort, announced Tuesday, is the deepest probe yet of the star KIC 8462852, part of the University of California at Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen program – the $100 million project backed by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner with Stephen Hawking.

“We can look at it with greater sensitivity and for a wider range of signal types than any other experiment in the world,” said Andrew Siemion, of Berkeley’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center.

Last year, scientists led by Louisiana State University astronomer Tabetha S. Boyajian published a study saying observations from the Kepler spacecraft revealed that KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s Star after Boyajian, did not behave like other stars. Specifically, Tabby’s Star flickered.

The star’s brightness dipped by as much as a fifth over the course of Kepler’s observations, The Washington Post reported last October. By way of comparison, should a planet as huge as Jupiter swoop in front of KIC 8462852, in a move known as a transit, such a gas-giant-size journey would dim the star by only 1 percent.

What’s more, the extreme dimming did not follow a constant pattern. The dips varied in duration, as though the star were blinking fast and slow. For a star of its size and age, this was unprecedented behavior.

Scientists remain skeptical that the dimming has a technological cause. That there was a star acting in an unprecedented way was not unprecedented, as the 1967 discovery of pulsars showed.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.