There is a mysterious source of radio signals in the Milky Way. Credit: MeerKAT/SARAO

A Mystery Source at Our Galaxy’s Center is Emitting Flashing Radio Signals—10 Things You Need to Know

The mysterious signal was recorded 13 times.

An international team of astronomers discovered a mysterious object located near the center of the galaxy and emitting radio signals at regular intervals. Scientists have not yet managed to classify it.


Everything you need to know about the mysterious source of repetitive radio signals in the Milky Way

Object

The study was led by astrophysicist Ziteng Wang of the University of Sydney in Australia. The newly discovered object was named ASKAP J173608.2-321635. Scientists describe it as “a highly polarized variable radio source located close to the galactic center and has no clear multi-wavelength analog.”

Unclassified

In other words, the detected object could not be classified according to the available methods. Astronomers write that so far they have not been able to figure out which class of space objects best matches the strange characteristics of ASKAP J173608.2-321635. According to their assumption, this object can be attributed to a new class of objects that have recently begun to be detected using radio telescopes.

ASKAP Radio Telescope

Note that the initially mysterious object was discovered in 2019 using the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) array of antenna arrays. It is considered one of the most sensitive radio telescopes ever created to study the depths of the “radio universe”. With this telescope, astronomers have already detected strange signals and objects that were previously unknown to science.

Additional observations

Subsequent independent observations were made in April and July 2020 using another Australian radio telescope but they were unsuccessful. But in February 2021, the existence of the mysterious object was confirmed by observations with the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa. And in April of this year, it was recorded by the team of the Australian ATCA telescope.

It remained well-hidden despite the incredible data archives

It is noteworthy that the previously found object was almost elusive. Never before has it manifested itself in X-rays, or in near-infrared observations, or in radio data archives collected by several instruments and studied by researchers.

Radio signals

The peculiarity of this object is that it emits radio signals in a rather strange way. These signals last for two to four weeks and then suddenly subside and disappear within just one day. After a while, they reappear.

A blinking object

As the researchers say, the object seems to be blinking, and its signals are highly polarized, that is, the orientation of the oscillation of the electromagnetic wave is distorted both linearly and in a circle.

It was recorded 13 times

According to the data presented, in general, during the observation period from April 2019 to August 2020, the mysterious signal was recorded 13 times. The authors of the work write that it is still difficult to understand the nature of the discovered radio source.

Not a pulsar

Astronomers have already checked and rejected the version that it could be a pulsar. Pulsars are similar to space beacons, they are characterized by the periodicity of the emission of signals. However, the analysis of ASKAP J173608.2-32163 showed that its radio signals sometimes “freeze”, and this “fading” is completely inconsistent with what we know about pulsars. For example, in one case, the interval between signals was three months.

Other phenomena that were considered

It is also known that there are several types of stars with different radio wavelengths, for example, binary systems with closely spaced stars. But if the detected object belonged to this class, then it would be possible to detect it in the X-ray or infrared spectrum, but this did not happen. Gamma-ray bursts and supernovae have also been excluded for classification.


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Sources:

Starr, M. (n.d.). Something mysterious near the galactic center is flashing radio signals. ScienceAlert.
Tangermann, V. (2021, September 7). Scientists puzzled by mysterious radio wave source inside our galaxy. Futurism.
Wang, Z., Kaplan, D. L., Murphy, T., Lenc, E., Dai, S., Barr, E., Dobie, D., Gaensler, B. M., Heald, G., Leung, J. K., O’Brien, A., Pintaldi, S., Pritchard, J., Rea, N., Sivakoff, G. R., Stappers, B. W., Stewart, A., Tremou, E., Wang, Y., … Zic, A. (2021, September 2). Discovery of askap j173608.2-321635 as a HIGHLY-POLARIZED Transient point source with the AUSTRALIAN SKA Pathfinder. arXiv.org.
Young, C. (2021, September 7). Scientists captured a mysterious signal flashing from the galaxy’s center. Interesting Engineering.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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