Mysterious radio signals coming from space leaves astronomers puzzled

<p>Beautiful night sky, the Milky Way, meteor and the trees. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.</p>

Beautiful night sky, the Milky Way, meteor and the trees. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.


Astronomers have recently discovered mysterious radio waves from the Milky Way, but they’re struggling to identify what’s causing them.

A student at the University of Sydney, Ziteng Wang, first detected the unusual signals while using an ASKAP radio telescope. Now astronomers are working hard to search for more evidence of what could be emitting them — though it appears that aliens are out of the question.

Experts believe that the space discovery, which is being referred to as ASKAP J173608.2-321635 based on their coordinates, suggest a new class of stellar object. The interesting part is that the radio signals are said to be flickering on and off at random intervals for weeks at a time, before abruptly “switching off.”

ASKAP J173608.2-321635 has apparently been picked up 17 times in under two years, but astronomers are still stumped on what it is.

A professor of the University, Tara Murphy, told media, “We have been surveying the sky with ASKAP to find unusual new objects with a project known as Variables and Slow Transients (VAST), throughout 2020 and 2021.”

As for what the signals appear like, Wang said in a statement at the University of Sydney that the new signal “has a very high polarisation.” He explained that this is strange because, “this means its light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates with time.”

Murphy also noted that the object was “unique in that it started out invisible, became bright, faded away and then reappeared.”

While they are still on the hunt for what exactly is causing this, astronomers have assured that aliens are not behind it.

Referring to the signals, Murphy said that they “have a lot of properties that mean we know they must be from something astronomical.” She gave further context: “For example the radio emission is what we call broadband – it covers a very wide range of frequencies and this could not be generated by an artificial source.”

“So while we don’t know exactly what is causing them, we are confident it is a natural, astronomical source,” Murphy added.

Despite the fact that aliens were ruled out, the scientific discovery continues to be just exciting. Wang said that the team of astronomers have “never seen anything like it.”

Of course, they have had a few theories as to what it is for now. One possibility, though it has now been ruled out, was that it was a pulsar – a highly magnetised rotating compact star.

The scientists plan to keep a close eye on the object to look for more clues as to what it might be.

The Conversation (0)