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This paper shows how the dips and secular dimming in the KIC8462852 light curve can originate in circumstellar material distributed around a single elliptical orbit (e.g. exocomets). The expected thermal emission and wavelength dependent dimming is derived for different orbital parameters and geometries, including dust that is optically thick to stellar radiation, and for a size distribution of dust with realistic optical properties. We first consider dust distributed evenly around the orbit, then show how to derive its uneven distribution from the optical light curve and to predict light curves at different wavelengths. The fractional luminosity of an even distribution is approximately the level of dimming times stellar radius divided by distance from the star at transit. Non-detection of dust thermal emission for KIC8462852 thus provides a lower limit on the transit distance to complement the 0.6 au upper limit imposed by 0.4 d dips. Unless the dust distribution is optically thick, the putative 16 per cent centurylong secular dimming must have disappeared before the WISE 12 μm measurement in 2010, and subsequent 4.5 μm observations require transits at > 0.05 au. However, self-absorption of thermal emission removes these constraints for opaque dust distributions. The passage of dust clumps through pericentre is predicted to cause infrared brightening lasting tens of days and dimming during transit, such that total flux received decreases at wavelengths < 5 μm, but increases to potentially detectable levels at longer wavelengths. We suggest that lower dimming levels than seen for KIC8462852 are more common in the Galactic population and may be detected in future transit surveys.

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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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