Scientists recently discovered a mysterious object in outer space that, for a time, sent out regular bursts of energy in ways researchers had not previously observed.
According to an article published in Nature On Wednesday, scientists observed the mysterious object while mapping radio frequencies in deep space in early 2018.
They noticed that the object emitted a low-frequency radio signal approximately every 18 minutes for several months. Energy bursts would last anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. When visible, the bursts were among the brightest sources of radio waves visible from Earth, according to CNN.
Vice reports that the energy pulses were observed between January and March 2018 but have not been seen since.
Officials aren’t sure what the object was, though they have a few theories. Some suspect it could be the remains of a collapsed star or a “white dwarf” – a small, dense star that’s usually the size of a planet.
Others believe the object was a “magnetar” – a neural star with a very strong magnetic field. However, CNN reports that typical magnetars erupt within seconds and that an 18-minute interval for flares would be highly unusual.
Although the object was thousands of light-years away, scientists were still amazed by the mysterious object’s proximity to Earth.
“It was completely unexpected. It was kind of scary for an astronomer because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that. And it’s really quite close to us – about 4,000 years away – It’s in our galactic backyard,” Natasha Hurley-Walker, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement to CNN.