Scientists detected unusual radio signals coming from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Credit: Sebastian Zentilomo/University of Sydney

Unusual Radio Signals Spotted Coming From Our Galaxy’s Center

According to scientists, the source of the radio signals changes its behavior in a completely "random" way.

An international team of scientists was able to register unusual radio signals emanating from the center of our galaxy.  According to the lead author of the study, the outgoing energy signal turns on and off, and the brightness of the object itself is constantly changing. The object does not correspond to any of the currently known sources and may indicate a new class of stellar objects.


Unusual radio signals from the galactic center: Everything you need to know

VAST project

Beginning in 2020, as part of the Variables and Slow Transients (VAST) project, astronomers have studied the sky for new unusual objects using the ASKAP radio interferometer located in Australia. In the direction of the center of our galaxy, they managed to catch radio waves from a strange source, which was given the designation ASKAP J173608.2-321635.

Six radio signals in nine months

During nine months of observations, the radio interferometer picked up six signals from it. Astronomers tried to find the source in visible light but found nothing, and subsequent observations with the Parkes radio telescope did not yield any results.

MeerKAT radio interferometer

To receive the unusual signal again, the team decided to use the MeerKAT radio interferometer located in South Africa. Observations with this instrument began in November 2020, but the signal from the source was recorded only on February 7 of this year.

Different behavior

Surprisingly, its behavior had changed dramatically: the source, which had been observed with ASKAP for weeks, disappeared in MeerKAT observations in just one day.

Radio telescopes that are part of MeerKAT. Credit: South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)
Radio telescopes that are part of MeerKAT. Credit: South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)

Strange properties

Scientists have found that ASKAP J173608.2-321635 has one rather strange property: a very high degree of circular polarization. This means that the radio signals emanating from it oscillate in only one direction, which rotates over time. At the same time, in the course of observations, the brightness of the source in the radio range changed by a factor of 100, and its activity, it seems, manifested itself in a completely random way.

Difficult to conclude

Scientists suggest that ASKAP J173608.2-321635 may be somehow connected with the so-called radio transients of the galactic center, but they are wary of drawing any hasty conclusions due to the lack of knowledge of the latter. Therefore, astronomers plan to continue observing the source with a more advanced instrument.

Artist's composite impression of the Square Kilometer Array telescopes to be built in South Africa and Australia. Credit: SKAO, ICRAR, SARAO, Hurley-Walker (Curtin / ICRAR) and the GLEAM Team
Artist’s composite impression of the Square Kilometer Array telescopes to be built in South Africa and Australia. Credit: SKAO, ICRAR, SARAO, Hurley-Walker (Curtin / ICRAR), and the GLEAM Team

Square Kilometer Array radio telescope

Unfortunately, the solution to this mystery will have to wait another decade. Scientists plan to use the upcoming Square Kilometer Array radio telescope which will be built on two continents – Australia and South Africa. However, this telescope will not be completed before 2027 and with such massive projects, we often see further delays.


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Sources:

Phys.org. (2021, October 12). Strange radio waves emerge from the direction of the Galactic Center.
Pultarova, T. (2021, June 30). World’s largest radio telescope to be built after almost 30 years of planning. Space.com.
Schultz, I. (2021, October 12). Strange radio signal from Galactic Center has astronomers flummoxed. Gizmodo.
Wang, Z. (n.d.). Discovery of ASKAP J173608.2–321635 as a Highly Polarized Transient Point Source with the Australian SKA Pathfinder. The Astrophysical Journal.
Wang, Z., Kaplan, D., & Murphy, T. (2021, October 12). We found a mysterious flashing radio signal from near the centre of the galaxy. The Conversation.

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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