SCIENTISTS have detected the source of a mysterious, flashing signal coming from the depths of the Milky Way.
The radio blip, which hit sensors at an extremely sensitive telescope in Australia, is said to have come from near the centre of our home galaxy.
Artist impression showing the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) detecting radio waves fired from a distant galaxyCredit: AFP or licensors
In a research paper published last week, researchers described the find as a “highly-polarized, variable radio source located near the Galactic Center”.
The discovery has baffled experts, as its radio signature – the fingerprint of the signal – doesn’t appears to fit any known object in the universe.
Previously, strange radio signals detected by scientists – such as elusive “fast radio bursts” – have been found to originate from young stars.
It’s possible, of course, that the signal comes from a known object.
However, its highly unusual radio wave signatures make it near impossible to account for, suggesting the discovery of an entirely new cosmic object.
The research team, led by Ziteng Wang of the University of Sydney in Australia, have named the mystery object ASKAP J173608.2-321635.
“ASKAP J173608.2-321635 may represent part of a new class of objects being discovered through radio imaging surveys,” they wrote in their paper.
The signal was exceptionally tricky to spot.
It was found using the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), an extremely sensitive radio telescope.
The wave appeared 13 times in ASKAP observations between April 2019 and August 2020.
However, it failed to show up in subsequent attempts to confirm its existence using radio telescopes across the world.
Earlier this year, the signal finally appeared again in observations made using telescopes in Australia and South Africa.
Its source remains a mystery, and scientists have already ruled out several major candidates.
The blips are unlikely to have come from a flaring star or nearby binary system, as they do not show up on X-ray or near-infrared observations.
They’re also unlikely to come from a pulsar, a dying star that lights up the galaxy with highly magnetized emissions, according to the team.
The only way to know for sure where they come from is to find more of them, and investigate the source more closely.
The research was published September 2 in the pre-print journal Arxiv. It has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
The signal is said to come from the centre of our Milky Way galaxyCredit: Alamy
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