HeathcareA strange, never-before-seen source of energy baffles astronomers

A strange, never-before-seen source of energy baffles astronomers


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A team mapping radio waves in the universe has discovered something unusual that releases a gigantic burst of energy three times an hour, unlike anything seen before.

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The researchers believe that it could be collapsed u-star cores with an ultra-strong magnetic field, as published in the journal ‘Nature’.

As it spins through space, the strange object emits a beam of radiation that crosses our line of sight and, for one minute in twenty, is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky.

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Astrophysicist Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, from the Curtin University node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia, who led the team, recalls that “This object appeared and disappeared over the course of a few hours during our observations. That was completely unexpected –ensures-. For an astronomer it was something creepy, because n In addition, it is very close to us, about 4,000 light years.”

The object was discovered by Tyrone O’Doherty, an honors student at Curtin University, using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in the outback of Western Australia and a new technique developed by him. “It is exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object –acknowledges in a statement O’Doherty, who is now studying for a doctorate at Curtin-. The MWA’s wide field of view and extreme sensitivity are perfect for surveying the entire sky and detecting the unexpected.”

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Objects turning on and off in the universe are not new to astronomers: they call them “transients.” ICRAR-Curtin astrophysicist and co-author of the study, Dr. Gemma Anderson, adds that “When you study transients, you see the death of a massive star or the activity of the debris it leaves behind.”

“Slow transients” such as supernovae can appear over the course of a few days and disappear after a few months, while “fast transients” such as a type of neutron star called a pulsar turn on and off in milliseconds or seconds. But Dr. Anderson stresses that finding something

As he points out, the mysterious object was incredibly bright and smaller than the Sun, and it emitted highly polarized radio waves, which suggested that the object had an extremely strong magnetic field.

Artist's illustration of the magnetar.  (BCSS/MT.VISUAL)

Dr Hurley-Walker explains that the observations are consistent with a predicted astrophysical object called an ‘ultra-long period magnetar’. “It is a type of neutron star that rotates slowly and whose existence has been predicted in theory –Explain-. But no one expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be that bright. Somehow, much more effectively than anything we’ve seen before.”

Hurley-Walker is now monitoring the object with the MWA to see if it turns back on. “If it does, there are telescopes all over the southern hemisphere and even in orbit that can point right at it.”, he points.

He also plans to search for more of these unusual objects in the MWA’s vast archives. “More detections will tell astronomers if this is a single, rare event or a vast new population that we’ve never noticed before.” go on.

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