Australian scientists say they’ve discovered something unknown orbiting the Milky Way, and claim it’s unlike anything seen before.
The object – first discovered by a college student – has been observed firing a massive burst of energy for a full minute every 18 minutes.
Objects pulsing with energy are often discovered in the universe. But scientists say that something that “stays” for a minute is very unusual.
The object was first discovered by Curtin University student Tyrone O’Doherty in a remote area of Western Australia known as the Murchison Widefield Array, using a telescope and new technology he developed.
O’Doherty was part of a team led by astrophysicist Natasha Hurley Walker of the Curtin University Department within the International Center for Research in Radio Astronomy (ICRAR).
“[Ele] It would appear and disappear over the course of a few hours during our observations,” she said in a press release from ICRAR about the discovery.
“It was totally unexpected. It was kind of scary for an astronomer because nothing known in the sky does that.”
Objects that “turn on and off” in the universe are not new to astronomers – they call them “transient.” An object that stays on for a full minute is “really weird,” says ICRAR-Curtin astrophysicist Gemma Anderson, according to the statement.
ICRAR added that after combing through years of data, the team was able to establish that the object is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth, is incredibly bright and has an extremely strong magnetic field.
It is believed that the object could be a neutron star or a white dwarf – the term used for the remains of a collapsing star. However, much of the discovery remains a mystery.
“More discoveries will tell astronomers whether this is a rare single event or a massive new group that we haven’t seen before,” Hurley Walker said. “I look forward to understanding this object and then broadening the search to find out more.”
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