Jun 2, 2022

This Disappearing Space Object is Emitting Giant, Highly-Polarized Radio Bursts Every 20 Minutes

Astronomers have discovered a “really weird” object 4,000 lightyears away from Earth, a study published in Nature on January 25th said. The object disappears from view every other minute and emits a giant burst of radio waves three times an hour.

The mysterious object was first seen by Curtin University student Tyrone O’Doherty when he was observing the sky in the outback of Western Australia. “It’s exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object,” O’Doherty said in a press release.

The Western Australia Telescope was used to observe the mysterious space object.

The object, which astronomers say is unlike anything else they’ve discovered, sends out a huge beam of radiation that every 20 minutes become one of the brightest in the sky. It also rotates and disappears every two minutes.

Space objects that “turn on” and off in the night sky are called “transients” by scientists, and they’re relatively common.

“When studying transients, you’re watching the death of a massive star or the activity of the remnants it leaves behind,” ICRAR-Curtin astrophysicist and co-author of the study Dr. Gemma Anderson said.

Slower transients, such as supernovae, can appear within days and persist for months. Fast transients, like some neutron stars, “turn on and off” several times per second. But transients between these two speeds are rare, and the latest discovery – in the words of the astronomers – is “really bizarre” and “completely unexpected”.

“It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that,” said astrophysicist Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, who led the team of scientists. “And it’s quite close to us – about 4000 lightyears away. It’s in our galactic backyard.”

Hurley-Walker described the mysterious object as smaller than the solar however vibrant and emitting highly-polarized radio waves 3 times an hour. These radio pulses point out that it has an “extraordinarily sturdy” magnetic area – and will match a predicted astrophysical object that has by no means been confirmed to exist. Scientists name the theoretical object an “ultra-long interval magnetar.”

“It is a sort of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically,” Hurley-Walker mentioned. “However no person anticipated to straight detect one like this as a result of we did not count on them to be so vibrant. In some way, it is changing magnetic power to radio waves way more successfully than something we have seen earlier.”

Astronomers currently believe it may be a rare type of neutron star or a collapsing white dwarf, but

 they need to observe it again to determine if it is a stroke of luck or a new type of space object.

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