Astronomers have found a mysterious, flickering object within the Milky Manner that belches huge quantities of power towards Earth 3 times an hour.
This surprisingly highly effective object — positioned about 4,000 light-years from the solar — is not like any cosmic construction ever noticed, researchers wrote in a examine revealed Jan. 26 within the journal Nature
The article in query — named GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3 (however let’s name it GLEAM for brief) — appeared out of nowhere on a current radio wave survey of the Milky Manner. In response to the researchers, GLEAM brightened quickly over the course of about 60 seconds, briefly turning into one of many brightest objects in the complete sky, then out of the blue disappeared into darkness once more. About 20 minutes later, the article reappeared — steadily glowing to peak brightness as soon as once more, earlier than dimming again to nothing a minute later.
Objects like these, which seem and disappear earlier than our telescope lenses, are often known as transients. Sometimes, transients symbolize both a dying star (a supernova) or the weird, rapidly-spinning corpse of an already-dead star, often known as a neutron star. Nevertheless, neither of these normal explanations fairly match with the conduct of this newfound object, researchers wrote within the new examine.
It is attainable that the mysterious GLEAM is proof of a brand new kind of stellar object that has solely been theorized till now — and even one which astronomers have not even dreamt up.
“This object was showing and disappearing over a couple of hours throughout our observations. That was fully surprising,” lead examine creator Natasha Hurley-Walker, a radio astronomer at Curtin College in Bentley, Australia, stated in an announcement. “It was sort of spooky for an astronomer as a result of there’s nothing identified within the sky that does that.”
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Final gentle of a dying star
Transients usually are available in two varieties. “Sluggish transients” can seem over the course of some days, then disappear after a number of months. These embody supernovas — which blaze brightly as dying stars shed their outer atmospheres in violent explosions, then regularly dim because the stellar leftovers drop in temperature.
Then, there are “quick transients,” which flicker on and off each few milliseconds. These embody objects like pulsars — neutron stars which rotate extremely quickly whereas flashing with brilliant radio emissions generated by the lifeless star’s magnetic subject.
The authors of the brand new examine have been on the lookout for transients like these utilizing the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope within the Australian outback, after they found GLEAM. The on-off blinking is just too quick to be a supernova and too sluggish to be a pulsar; GLEAM’s one-minute-long brightening sample defies clarification, the researchers stated.
An evaluation of the article confirmed that it was extremely brilliant however smaller than Earth’s solar. GLEAM’s radio emissions have been additionally highly-polarized (that’s, their gentle waves solely vibrate on a single aircraft), suggesting they have been generated by an especially highly effective magnetic subject, based on the examine authors.
These traits match a sort of theoretical object often known as an “ultra-long interval magnetar,” which is actually a extremely magnetized neutron star that rotates extremely slowly. Whereas predicted to exist, this uncommon class of object has by no means been noticed in house earlier than, the researchers stated.
“No person anticipated to straight detect one like this as a result of we did not anticipate them to be so brilliant,” Hurley-Walker stated. “Someway it is changing magnetic power to radio waves far more successfully than something we have seen earlier than.”
There could also be different explanations for the mysterious GLEAM additionally, the researchers added. It might be a uncommon kind of white dwarf star (the shriveled husk of a lifeless star that wasn’t huge sufficient to break down right into a neutron star), which may very hardly ever emit radio emissions by sucking in materials from a binary companion star. Such a star would possibly seem to pulse like GLEAM, if it rotated at precisely the appropriate pace, the group stated.
Additional observations in different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum are wanted to unravel this stellar thriller. Now that GLEAM has been detected, the researchers are additionally digging into archival observations from the MWA to see if any related objects have ever turned up.
Initially revealed on Dwell Science.