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Scientists Detect ‘Spooky’ Radio Wave Blasts From Mysterious Nearby Object In Space

Stewart Perrie

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Scientists Detect ‘Spooky’ Radio Wave Blasts From Mysterious Nearby Object In Space

Scientists in Australia have detected 'spooky' radio wave bursts from a mysterious object in space.

The astronomers from Curtin University at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research say they've never encountered anything like this before.

Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature and there are some theories about what it could be.

This mysterious object has been observed sending out a beam of radiation every 20 minutes. For one minute in this time, it can become one of the brightest object in the sky.

Astrophysicist Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker led the team who made the discovery and she said it's all very exciting.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

"This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations," she said.

"That was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that.

"And it's really quite close to us - about 4,000 lightyears away. It's in our galactic backyard."

Who had a peculiar and bright space object on their 2022 bingo card?

While the idea of a spook and mysterious object in space sending radio waves our way might be weird, it's not uncommon to have things in our cosmos 'turn on and off'.

Astronomers have labelled these objects as 'transients' however they are usually 'on' for a few days or milliseconds before switching 'off'.

This new item has piqued their interest because it's only showing signs of activity for a minute.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

At the moment, the running theory is that it could be an 'ultra-long period magnetar' because it matches that type of celestial object's behaviour but with a bit of a twist.

"It's a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically," Dr Hurley-Walker said. "But nobody expected to directly detect one like this, because we didn't expect them to be so bright.

"Somehow it's converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we've seen before."

This mystery object is reportedly smaller than our sun, however is still incredibly bright. The output of its radio waves suggests that it has an 'extremely' strong magnetic field.

The team who discovered it are now waiting to see whether it switches back on, for how long and whether anything else can be gleaned from the radio wave bursts that it emits.

"More detections will tell astronomers whether this was a rare one-off event or a vast new population we'd never noticed before," Dr Hurley-Walker said.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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