Scientists have found a “mysterious” object that blasts radio waves into space every 18 minutes — much more slowly than most similar objects. They’re not sure what the object is, but it’s fairly close by at just 4,000 lightyears away, in our “galactic backyard,” according to astronomers. They’ve have never seen anything else like it.
Scientists spot object that blasts radio waves into space slowly
According to the Independent, the object that blasts radio waves into space appears and disappears ever few hours. Natasha Hurley-Walker from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research led the study of the object. She described it as “completely unexpected” and “kind of spooky for an astronomer because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that.”
Researchers say the object could be a white dwarf or a neutron star with an exceptionally strong magnetic field. It’s spinning fast, shooting the beam of radiation flashes at Earth about three times an hour. For one minute out of every 20 minutes, the object is one of the brightest sources of radio waves in the sky.
Curtin University student Tyrone O’Doherty was the first to see the object while using the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in western Australia’s outback. Since he first spotted it, the object has confused the astronomers who have been studying it.
More on the object
According to NewScientist, the object pulses with a steady rhythm, brightening for 30 to 60 seconds every 18.18 minutes. However, astronomers have never seen anything else that pulses with that rhythm. Most objects that flash and blast radio waves into space pulse much faster, brightening and then disappearing in only seconds.
Astronomers believe the pulsing suggests the object is spinning, and other measurements suggest it could have a powerful magnetic field. As a result, researchers think it could be a magnetar, a kind of neutron star whose magnetic field is especially strong. However, it’s unclear how a magnetar could spin so slowly and shine so brightly.