UFO discovery in space: ‘somewhat scary’

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An Australian research team has found a mysterious object in space. It could just be an orb that was previously theoretically predicted.

Perth – The universe is unimaginably large and boasts wonderful things. But something like the one discovered by researchers at the International Center for Research on Radio Astronomy (ICRAR) in Perth, Australia, is so unusual that it astounds the participating scientists. A research team led by astrophysicist Natasha Hurley Walker wanted to map radio waves in space. But experts have detected unusual signals: massive bursts of energy, three times an hour.

The mysterious object released a beam of radiation about every 20 minutes and was one of the brightest radio sources in the sky during this time, according to the ICRAR release. “The object appeared and disappeared within several hours during our observations,” Hurley Walker recalls. “It was totally unexpected. It was kind of scary for an astronomer, because there’s nothing in the sky that does that.”

UFO discovery in space: ‘somewhat scary’

The study, in which a research group led by lead author Hurley Walker described their mysterious discovery, was Published in the journal Nature. The newly discovered object is therefore only about 4,000 light-years away from Earth. “It’s in our galaxy’s backyard,” Hurley Walker describes. The object – which the research team suspects is a neutron star or white dwarf with a very strong magnetic field – was discovered by student Tyrone O’Doherty at the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in the Australian outback. “It’s exciting that the source I identified last year is something of an outlier,” says O’Doherty, who is also a co-author on the study and is now a doctoral student at Curtin University in Perth.

The newly discovered mysterious object is not the first known celestial body to be “turned on and off”. Objects that have irregular transverse differences in brightness are called “transients” in astronomy. “Slow transients,” that is, objects with a slow change in brightness, include supernovae, exploding stars that appear within a few days and disappear after a few months. In turn, there are also “rapid transients”, that is, rapid changes in brightness. These are, for example, pulsars that “blink” every second or even shorter periods.

Space: A strange celestial body incredibly sparkles for one minute

Finding something that “works” for a minute is very strange, says astrophysicist and study co-author Gemma Anderson. The mysterious object was incredibly bright and smaller than the sun, Anderson describes it. Based on the highly polarized radio waves emitted by the object, the researchers concluded that the object has an extremely strong magnetic field.

The Milky Way as seen from Earth. The star icon in the right pane indicates the location of the mysterious object.

© Dr. Natasha Hurley Walker (ICRAR / Curtin)

So far, the mysterious object can only be a theoretically expected orb

In fact, the observations are consistent with an astrophysical object that has only been predicted theoretically so far, as lead author Hurley Walker explains: it could be an extremely long-range magnetar. “It is a type of slowly rotating neutron star whose existence would have been theoretically expected,” says the researcher. However, no one expected to discover such a star directly, “because we did not expect this star to be so bright.” Hurley Walker is amazed: “It somehow converts magnetic energy into radio waves more effectively than anything we’ve seen before.”

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Currently, the obscure object continues to be observed so that it does not get lost when you “play” it again. “If that happens, there are many telescopes in the southern hemisphere and even in Earth’s orbit that can look directly at it,” Hurley Walker said. The researcher also wants to look for clues about the mysterious object in the archives of the MWA telescope: “Additional discoveries will provide astronomers with information about whether this is a rare one-time event or a massive population that we have not seen before,” Hurley Walker said. (tab)

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