Astronomers have detected mysterious radio waves originating from the center of the Milky Way, but so far have no idea what causes them, according to a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal on Tuesday.
A team of scientists from around the world discovered the object using the CSIRO radio telescope in Western Australia. Ziteng Wang, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Sydney, said in a press release that they initially believed it could be a spinning dead star called a pulsar, but that his signal was not what they expected from these types of celestial objects.
“The strangest property of this new signal is that it has a very strong polarization,” Wang said. “This means that its light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates with time.”
“The object’s brightness also varies considerably, by a factor of 100, and the signal turns on and off seemingly randomly,” Wang added. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”
The radio signal – named ASKAP J173608.2-321635 after its coordinates – was “unique” because it was initially invisible, then it turned bright and faded before reappearing again, said Tara Murphy, director of Wang’s thesis and professor at Sydney. Institute of Astronomy and School of Physics.
“This behavior was extraordinary,” she said.
Scientists detected six radio signals from the source over nine months in 2020 and tried to find the object in visual light, but found nothing. They chose to use the CSIRO radio telescope and failed to recognize the source.
According to the press release, the signals do not match any currently understood variable radio source model, and this could suggest a new class of stellar objects.
“The information we have has parallels with another emerging class of mysterious objects known as Galactic Center radio transients, including one dubbed the ‘cosmic burper’,” Wang co-director David Kaplan said. , professor at the University of Wisconsin. Milwaukee.
“Although our new object, ASKAP J173608.2-321635, shares some properties with GCRTs, there are differences as well. And we don’t really understand those sources, anyway, so that adds to the mystery,” he said. -he declares.
As scientists continue to monitor more and more clues, sources of other radio signals have been detected in recent months. In May, NASA traced therapid radio bursts sending signals to Earth.