Mysterious object in Milky Way ‘spooks’ astronomers
PTI, Jan 27, 2022, 9:40 AM IST
Australian researchers have discovered a strange spinning object in the Milky Way, which, they say, is unlike anything astronomers have ever seen.
The object, first spotted by a university student working on his undergraduate thesis, releases a huge burst of radio energy three times every hour. The pulse comes “every 18.18 minutes, like clockwork,” said astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker, who led the investigation after the student’s discovery, using a telescope in the Western Australian outback known as the Murchison Widefield Array.
While there are other objects in the universe that switch on and off — such as pulsars — Hurley-Walker said 18.18 minutes is a frequency that has never been observed before.
Finding this object was “kind of spooky for an astronomer,” she said, “because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that.”
The research team is now working to understand what they have found. Trawling back through years of data, they have been able to establish a few facts: the object is about 4,000 light-years from Earth, is incredibly bright and has an extremely strong magnetic field.
But there are still many mysteries to untangle. “If you do all of the mathematics, you find that they shouldn’t have enough power to produce this kind of radio waves every 20 minutes,” Hurley-Walker said. “It just shouldn’t be possible.”
The object may be something researchers have theorised could exist but have never seen called an “ultra-long period magnetar”. It could also be a white dwarf, a remnant of a collapsed star.
“But that’s quite unusual as well. We only know of one white dwarf pulsar, and nothing as great as this,” Hurley-Walker said. “Of course, it could be something that we’ve never even thought of — it could be some entirely new type of object.”
On the question of whether the powerful, consistent radio signal from space could have been sent by some other life form, Hurley-Walker conceded: “I was concerned that it was aliens.”
But the research team was able to observe the signal across a wide range of frequencies. “That means it must be a natural process, this is not an artificial signal,” Hurley-Walker said.
The next step for the researchers is to look for more of these strange objects across the universe. “More detections will tell astronomers whether this was a rare one-off event or a vast new population we’d never noticed before,” Hurley-Walker said.
The team’s paper on the object has been published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.
Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.
Bodies floating on Ganga: NGT asks UP, Bihar govts to inform number of human corpses found in river
Kashmiri Pandits continue to protest against Rahul Bhat’s killing
RBI may hike rates by 75 bps by August in view of persistent inflation: SBI Economists
Related Articles More
Lenovo unveils new range of ThinkCentre Neo desktops in India
Heat waves, floods and heavy rain: India battling climate change and it is getting worse, warn experts
Video games: our study suggests they boost intelligence in children
Social media yanking shooting videos faster – if not by much
Cryptos can lead to dollarisation of economy: RBI officials to par panel
Ready to explain views about Bengal situation to central leaders: BJP MP
In a first, High Court hears case through Whatsapp
After SC order on OBC quota in local bodies, Goa govt to seek legal opinion on panchayat polls
J’khand may face food shortage as traders disrupt supply over market fee imposition
Targeted killings of KPs, non-locals aimed to keep terrorism alive in Kashmir: Army commander