This illustration depicts dust orbiting Tabby's Star. Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Several theories surround what is known as the "most mysterious star in the universe" — one in the Milky Way that is slightly bigger than our Sun and whose sporadic dimming and brightening puzzles scientists.

New data, published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests the flickering is likely caused by a cloud of small dust particles — and not an alien megastructure orbiting the star, as some researchers hypothesized.

Their methodology: The scientists observed "Tabby's Star," nicknamed after Louisiana State University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian who led the study, through the Las Cumbres Observatory from March 2016 to December 2017, during which the star's light dipped four times.

Their findings, detailed in The Atlantic: The dimming they observed was much deeper at blue wavelengths than at red wavelengths, meaning that the object blocking the star was not opaque (an opaque object would block both colors in equal measure). That discovery led Boyajian's team to the conclusion that cosmic dust particles "just big enough to stick inside the star's orbit, but too small to block light in all wavelengths" are responsible.

Key quote: "Therefore, whatever is passing between us and the star is not opaque, as would be expected from a planet or alien megastructure," Boyajian told The Atlantic.

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Amy Coney Barrett's immediate impact

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In her first week on the job, Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

Texas Democrats beg Biden to spend now

Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is rebuffing persistent pleas from Texas Democrats to spend at least $10 million in the Lone Star state, several people familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: If Texas — which has 38 electoral votes and is steadily getting more blue, but hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976 — flipped to the Biden column, it would be game over. But the RealClearPolitics polling average stubbornly hovers at +2.6 for Trump — and Team Biden appears more focused on closer targets.

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Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Chris Carlson-Pool/Getty Images

A luxe election-night watch party at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is being planned for President Trump's donors, friends and advisers — but Trump's hand in it is minimal because he's "very superstitious" — people familiar with the plans tell Axios.

The big picture: This "mecca for all things MAGA," as one adviser described it, is one of three hubs where they say Trumpworld will watch returns. The others are the war room at campaign HQ in Rosslyn, Virginia, and the White House residence, where Trump and the first lady will gather close family and advisers before heading to the hotel later that night, the sources said.

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