While mapping radio waves across the universe, astronomers stumbled upon a celestial body that was releasing an enormous amount of energy unlike anything they had seen before, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.The spinning space object, discovered in March 2018, emits three radiations per hour. In those moments, it became the brightest source of radio waves visible from Earth, acting like a celestial beacon.
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Astronomers think it could be the remnant of a collapsed star, either a dense neutron star or a dead white dwarf with a strong magnetic field, or it could be something else entirely. The researchers said: “In our observations, the object appeared and disappeared within a few hours, which was completely unexpected. For an astronomer, this is a bit bizarre, because nothing known in the sky can Do it. And it’s really close to us, about 4,000 light-years away. It’s in our galaxy’s backyard.”
Curtin University doctoral student Tyrone O’Doherty made the unusual discovery while using the Murchison Wide Field Array telescope in outback Western Australia. The picture shows the location of the mysterious repeating transient. When studying transients, you are looking at the death of a massive star or the activity of the remnants it leaves behind. Slow transients, such as supernovae, may appear within a few days and disappear after a few months . Fast transients, like a type of neutron star called a pulsar, flash and disappear within milliseconds or seconds.
However, this new, incredibly bright object only turns on for about a minute every 18 minutes. The researchers say their observations may match the definition of an ultralong-period magnetar. Magnets usually light up within a second, but this object took much longer. This could be a slowly spinning neutron star, the existence of which has been theoretically predicted, but no one thought that such a neutron star would be directly detected, not so bright. Somehow, it converts magnetic energy into radio waves far more efficiently than anything seen before.
The researchers will continue to monitor the object to see if it turns back on, while they look for evidence of other similar objects.