Astronomers detect strange radio signals we’ve never seen before in the cosmic neighborhood

(ORDO NEWS) — Something in the space region of the Earth is emitting strange signals that we have never seen before.

Just 4,000 light-years away, something is emitting radio waves. Approximately 30 to 60 seconds every 18.18 minutes, an unknown object pulses brightly, being one of the brightest objects in the low-frequency radio sky. It matches the profile of an unknown astronomical object, and astronomers are stunned. They named it GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3.

“This object appeared and disappeared for several hours during our observations,” said astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker of the Curtin University International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia.

“It was completely unexpected. And a little creepy for an astronomer, because there was nothing like it in the sky. The source is really very close to us – about 4000 light-years from Earth.

Objects that pulsate regularly or not very regularly are actually quite common in space. Anything that changes brightness unexpectedly and abruptly is called a transient and includes everything from supernovae and black holes tearing stars apart to stellar flares.

Pulsars also fall into a similar basket – these are neutron stars that rotate extremely quickly, throwing out bright beams of radio emission from their poles, so that they rush past the Earth like a beacon. The period of these rotations, and hence the pulses, is measured from seconds to milliseconds.

However, astronomers did not see anything like this in GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3. It was detected in data from Western Australia’s Murchison Widefield Array, a low-frequency radio telescope made up of thousands of spidery dipole antennas scattered across the desert.

In data collected by the MWA between January and March 2018 using a new technique developed by astronomer Tyrone O’Doherty of Curtin University, astronomers detected 71 pulses from the same spot in the sky.

By analyzing the signal, they tracked its location and found that the object, whatever it was, was smaller than the Sun and very active. They also found that the radiation is highly polarized or curved, suggesting that its source has an unusually strong magnetic field.


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