Here in this isolated corner of the Milky Way, our Earth-bound human lives might seem tiny and parochial on a galactic scale. But the universe—vast, deep and presumably infinite—can always be counted on to deliver the unexpected.

Within the bounty of information from the Kepler space telescope, a now-retired exoplanet-hunting observatory, astronomers have spotted a peculiar star whose characteristics defy many of their preconceived notions. After staring at the data about it for more than a year, the team who discovered the strange object, named HD 139139, still does not know what to make of it.

"We've never seen anything like this in Kepler, and Kepler's looked at 500,000 stars," says Andrew Vanderburg, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of a new paper on the star, posted to the preprint server ArXiv.

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