Astronomers have discovered a mysterious repeating transient at the edge of our galaxy. The mass is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and it releases massive bursts of energy up to three times an hour. Researchers discovered the mass while mapping radio waves in space. The team believes it could be a neutron star or even a white dwarf with a very powerful magnetic field surrounding it.
This mysterious repeating transient has astronomers scratching their heads
An astrophysicist led the team that made the discovery. Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, who works with the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research said the object was “completely unexpected.”
“This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations,” Hurley-Walker stated (according to a release from ICRAR). The researchers say that the mysterious object was sending out beams of radiation for a minute of every twenty to thirty minutes. Additionally, it’s one of the brightest radio sources that we’ve ever seen in the sky. The researchers labeled the object a repeating transient. Essentially, it releases short bursts of energy before going dark once again.
Even more intriguing, though, is that the mysterious repeating transient is only 4,000 light-years or so away from us. “It’s in our galactic backyard,” Hurley-Walker said in reference to the object. Unfortunately, not much else is known about the object at this time. However, Dr. Hurley-Walker said that it matches predictions for an astrophysical object they call an “ultra-long period magnetar.”
“It’s a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically,” she explained. “Nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright.”
Additionally, Dr. Hurley-Walker says the mysterious repeating transient is converting magnetic energy to radio waves more effectively than anything else that they have ever witnessed.
Space is full of strange things
This isn’t the first time that researchers have observed a transient object in space. In fact, they’re actually quite common. According to Dr. Gemma Anderson, an astrophysicist with ICRAR and Curtin University, there are a few different types of transients.
Fast transients are usually neutron stars that flash on and off within milliseconds. Other, slow transients are like supernovas. They appear over the course of a few days, but then disappear after a few months have passed. This particular mysterious repeating transient was bright and smaller than our Sun. The object emitted highly polarized radio waves. The researchers say that this suggests that it had a very strong magnetic field around it.
Much like the other strange objects that we find in our universe, like the strange sounds coming from Jupiter’s moon, researchers will continue to monitor this new and mysterious repeating transient to learn more about it.