Strange signals have been observed coming from the Milky Way’s core, according to astronomers. The radio waves fit no known pattern of fluctuating radio source and could indicate the existence of a new class of star object.
“The most unusual feature of this new signal is its extremely high polarization. This means that its light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates with time,” explained Ziteng Wang, the study’s principal author and a PhD student at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics.
“The object’s brightness swings considerably by a factor of 100, and the signal appears to turn on and off at random.” It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.” Many different types of stars release light that varies across the electromagnetic spectrum. The study of variable or transient objects in radio waves has become a large field of research thanks to tremendous breakthroughs in radio astronomy, allowing us to learn more about the secrets of the Universe. Astronomical objects with varying brightness include pulsars, supernovae, flaring stars, and rapid radio bursts.
“At first, we assumed it was a – an extremely dense form of spinning dead star – or a type of star that releases massive solar flares. Mr. Wang explained that the signals from this new source “do not match what we expect from these types of astronomical objects.”
The Astrophysical Journal revealed the discovery of the object today (October 12, 2021).
Using the CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope in Western Australia, Mr. Wang and an international team of scientists from Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, Germany, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Spain, and France identified the object. The MeerKAT telescope of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory was used to conduct follow-up observations.
Professor Tara Murphy, also from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and the School of Physics, is Mr. Wang’s PhD supervisor.
“Throughout 2020 and 2021, we have been searching the sky with ASKAP to locate unique new objects for a study called Variables and Slow Transients (VAST),” Professor Murphy added.
“We discovered ASKAP J173608.2-321635, named after its coordinates, while looking towards the core of the Galaxy. This thing was unusual in that it began as a ghost, then became visible, brightened, faded away, and reappeared. This was remarkable behavior.”