Astronomers spot strange spinning object in Milky Way
Australian researchers have discovered a strange object in the Milky Way that they claim is unlike anything astronomers have ever seen.
First spotted by a university student, the spinning object is said to be releasing a huge burst of radio energy three times every hour.
According to astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker, who led the investigation after the student's discovery, the pulse of energy comes "every 18.18 minutes, like clockwork".
There are similar objects in the universe that turn on and off but 18.18 minutes is a frequency that has never been observed before.
"It was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations," Hurley-Walker said.
"That was completely unexpected.
"And it’s really quite close to us - about 4000 lightyears away. It’s in our galactic backyard.”
She said that an anomaly like this is "kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that".
👽 @ICRAR @CurtinUni and @CSIRO have discovered a mysterious object unlike anything astronomers have seen before
💬Find out what they discovered by listening in to our briefing over on Scimex -
— Au Science Media Ctr (@AusSMC) January 27, 2022
Hurley-Walker became concerned when the powerful, consistent radio signal from space was first discovered, wondering if it could have been sent by some other life form.
"I was concerned that it was aliens," she admitted.
The research team is now working to figure out what exactly it is that they have found and, while they have made some developments, there are still many mysteries surrounding the object.
"If you do all of the mathematics, you find that they shouldn't have enough power to produce these kind of radio waves every 20 minutes.
"It just shouldn't be possible."
The team has since theorised that it could be a neutron star or a white dwarf - collapsed cores of stars - with an ultra-powerful magnetic field.
"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."