Astronomers have discovered a strange object in space that is “unlike anything” they have ever seen.
Strange objects that defy assumptions continue to be discovered by astronomers. According to BBC News, astronomers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) node at Curtin University has spotted a peculiar spinning Milky Way object around 4,000 lightyears distant. The repeated transient transmitted a massive burst of polarized radio energy every 18 minutes, appearing and receding over a few hours of monitoring – a pulsar’s burst lasts just a few seconds or less.
The oddity is smaller than the Sun, yet this is one of the most glowing things in the sky during its bursts. According to team leader Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, the disappearances were likewise unusual. Curtin student Tyrone O’Doherty discovered the object using Australia’s Murchison Widefield Array and a novel observing approach.
According to a press statement from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, a team monitoring radio waves in the cosmos identified the celestial object that emits a massive burst of energy three times every hour (ICRAR).
Research on the finding was also published in the journal Nature.
What is it tho?
The object might be a neutron star or a white dwarf, both of which are defined as a collapsed core of stars with a tremendous magnetic field.
The object, which is spinning around in space, emits a beam of radiation that crosses Earth’s line of sight, and it is one of the brightest radio emitters in the sky for one minute every twenty minutes, according to the release.
“This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations, that was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there is nothing known in the sky that does that,” said astrophysicist and team leader Natasha Hurley-Walker in the release. “And it’s really quite close to us – about 4,000 lightyears away. It’s in our galactic backyard.”
Astronomers are familiar with objects in space that “switch on and off.” These objects are known as “transients.” Slow transients, such as supernovae, may arise over a few days and then fade away after a few months, but rapid transients, such as pulsars, flash on and off in minutes.
It is, however, unheard for something to turn on for a minute and then switch off. The object is very brilliant, smaller than the sun, and produces highly polarized radio waves, implying that it has a very strong magnetic field.
Hurley-Walker is currently watching the object using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in Western Australia’s outback to see whether it turns back on.
“If it does, there are telescopes across the Southern Hemisphere and even in orbit that can point straight to it,” she said in the release.
The frenzy looks to be over, but Hurley-Walker is still keeping an eye on the item in case it repeats the same behavior again. She also intends to dig through the Murchison array’s records to see whether similar items have been discovered in the past. Whatever this creature is, the results are important because they have the potential to change our understanding of stars and the universe as a whole.
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