Every 18 minutes and 18 seconds, a mysterious radio signal from our galaxy is sent to Earth. This one can emit up to one minute. This discovery was observed by a team of Australian astronomers.
While a student of the team was searching for transient objects in the Milky Way, a signal stood out with a huge wave spike, reported New Atlas. The team therefore focused their research on older data from the same region and then captured the burst emissions ranging from 30 to 60 seconds.
The astrophysicist behind the research, Natasha Hurley-Walker, said that “this object appeared and disappeared within a few hours during their observations”. This “completely unexpected” discovery remains quite “frightening” for an astronomer, because no other phenomenon of this type has been observed so far, however recognizes the radio astronomer from the International Center for Research in Radio Astronomy (ICRAR).
According to the study published in the journal Nature on January 26, the object which emits a signal whose “periodicity is unusual”, is about 4,000 light years from us. What is “really very close to Earth” says Natasha Hurley-Walker. And according to the latter, “the fact that the signal repeats itself so regularly means that it is likely to be a rotating object”.
If of course the question of an extraterrestrial presence is raised, the analysis shows “that a light coming from the object is 90% polarized, which indicates that it has very powerful and highly ordered magnetic fields” . It could therefore be a pulsar (neutron star) or a magnetar (star with a magnetic field), however the rotations of just over 18 minutes turn out to be slower than what scientists have accustomed to watching.
“an ultra-long-period magnetar”
As the researcher explains, “the fact is that if you do all the math, you find that they shouldn’t have enough power to produce those kinds of radio waves every 20 minutes. It just shouldn’t be possible.” She and her team thus believe “that a neutron star would have undergone some kind of explosion or activity which would have caused a temporary production of radio waves, making it powerful enough to produce something every 20 minutes” .
The Australian team therefore suggested that the object would be “an ultra-long period magnetar”, a phenomenon that existed in theory, but until then had never been observed. However, given the vastness of the galaxy, Natasha Hurley-Walker suggests that “of course, it could also be something that they never thought of. It could be an entirely new type of object.”
According to the published study, “this discovery could provide insight into the evolutionary extremes that surround the life and death of massive stars.”