Australian scientists say they have discovered an unknown spinning object in the Milky Way that they claim is unlike anything seen before.
Astronomers have discovered a mysterious object emitting a radio wave beam that pulsed every 20 minutes.
Curtin University Honours student Tyrone O'Doherty discovered the object using the Murchison Widefield Array ( MWA ) telescope in outback Western Australia.
She said : 'This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations.
"That was completely unexpected.
it was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that." said natasha hurley-walker, from the curtin university node of the international centre for radio astronomy research, who led the team that made the discovery.
Objects that turn on and off in the Universe are not new to astronomers—they call them "transients".
However, ICRAR-Curtin astrophysicist and co-author Dr Gemma Anderson said finding something that turned on for just a minute made the new discovery unusual.
icrar added that after trawling back through years of data, the team was able to establish that the object is about 4,000 light-years from earth, is incredibly bright and has an extremely strong magnetic field.
"More detections will tell astronomers whether this was a rare one-off event or a vast new population we'd never noticed before," Dr Hurley-Walker said.
They think it could be a neutron star or a white dwarf – collapsed cores of stars – with an ultra-powerful magnetic field, also known as a magnetar.
as it spins through the cosmos, the 'spooky' object sends out a beam of radiation, and for one minute in every 20 it is one of the brightest radio sources in the whole sky.
Observations show it releasing a giant burst of energy three times an hour.
'and it's really quite close to us — about 4,000 light years away.
it's in our galactic backyard."
Dr Hurley-Walker added that the observations match a predicted astrophysical object called an 'ultra-long period magnetar '.
'It's a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically,' she said.
"but nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn't expect them to be so bright.
"somehow it's converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we ’ ve seen before."
"it's exciting that the source i identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object.
"The MWA's wide field of view and extreme sensitivity are perfect for surveying the entire sky and detecting the unexpected."
usually, they come from the death of a massive star or the activity of the remnants that are left behind when that happens.
The findings are published in the journal Nature.
Scientists are now watching the the area intently in the hope that it will switch back on.
Fast-spinning neutron stars are detectable as pulsars that flash on and off within milliseconds or seconds.
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