Science & Tech

Blasts of light coming from 'mystery' space object – and Twitter think it's a sign

Blasts of light coming from 'mystery' space object – and Twitter think it's a sign
The Shell Surrounding Our Solar System Might Contain Trillions of Mysterious Objects

Scientists have spotted an extraordinary object blasting giant bursts of energy in a way they have never seen before.

The "mystery" object pulsed three times an hour, brightening for 30 to 60 seconds. Natasha Hurley-Walker, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, who led the research, said: "This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations,"

"That was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that.

"And it's really quite close to us – about 4000 lightyears away. It's in our galactic backyard."

Astronomers have theorised that it could be the remnant of a massive star that has exploded, known as a neutron star. However, further mysteries are surrounding the incredibly bright object. It is smaller than the sun yet blasting out highly-polarised radio waves.

Tyrone O'Doherty, student at Curtin University was the first to spot the object using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in Western Australia. Since it was discovered, it has perplexed the astronomers who have studied it.

"It's exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object," said O'Doherty.

"The MWA's wide field of view and extreme sensitivity are perfect for surveying the entire sky and detecting the unexpected."

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

News soon spread to Twitter where people took on the astromers with their own theories on what it could be. In terms of creativity, the platform won.

One user suggested it was Sue Gray's inquiry coming through, quizzing: "Is this how Sue is delivering her report?"

Another welcomed aliens with open arms "just as long as they can get rid of the Tory government and save the UK."

The characteristics of the mystery object seem to match something known as an ultra-long period magnetar. Such object has never been seen before.

"It's a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically," Dr Hurley-Walker explained.

"But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn't expect them to be so bright.

"Somehow it's converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we've seen before."

Scientists are now monitoring the area in hopes that it switches back to carry out more research.

Enjoyed this article? Then click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help it raise through the indy100 rankings and have your say in our news democracy.

The Conversation (0)