A MYSTERIOUS object unlike anything astronomers have seen before has been discovered in our “galactic backyard”.
In research published Wednesday, scientists describe the strangely spinning mass, which is said to release a colossal blast of energy every 20 minutes.
That radiation, which passes the sight of telescopes on Earth for 60 seconds at a time, is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky.
It was discovered by a team at the Australia-based Center for Radio Astronomy Research who are mapping radio waves in the Universe.
They believe that the cosmic discharge lamp could be a super-dense star or a white dwarf – the cores of stars being collapsed – with a strong magnetic field.
Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, an astronomer from Curtin University in Australia who led the research team, said: ‘This object appeared and disappeared over the course of several hours during our observations.
“It was completely unexpected. That’s a pretty spooky thing for an astronomer because nothing in the sky does that.
“And it’s actually pretty close to us – about 4,000 light-years away. It’s in our galactic backyard. “
The object was detected with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in the Australian outback.
It’s what astronomers know as a transient object – an object in the night sky that can turn on and off, such as a dying star.
The so-called “slow transition” appears for a few days and disappears after a few months. An example is a stellar explosion known as a supernova.
“Fast transients” – such as a type of neutron star known as a pulsar – turn on and off in seconds or even milliseconds.
The newly discovered object is unusual because it doesn’t fit any category, passing its radio waves through the galaxy in bursts lasting about a minute.
Study co-author Dr Gemma Anderson said the space object is smaller than the Sun but extremely bright.
It shoots out highly polarized radio waves, indicating that it has a strong magnetic field.
Dr Hurley-Walker said the observations fit the description of a hypothetical object known as an “extremely long period magnetic field”.
“It’s a type of slow-rotating neutron star that has been predicted in theory,” she said.
“But no one expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright.
“Somehow, it converts magnetic field energy into radio waves much more efficiently than anything we’ve seen before.”
The team is continuing to track the object with the MWA to better understand what the object might be.
Dr Hurley-Walker added: “More findings will tell astronomers whether this is a rare event or a massive new population that we have not noticed before.
The study was published in the journal Nature.
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/17446419/astronomers-mysterious-object-anything-seen-before/ Astronomers spot mysterious object ‘unlike anything seen before’ – and it’s sending signals our way