Using the radio telescope Murchison Widefield Array (M.W.A.) located in the Australian outback, researchers from Curtin University and the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) from that country have discovered an object that is unlike anything astronomers have seen before, since it sends pulses of energy every almost 20 minutes. It is relatively close about 4,000 light years, in our own galaxy, as published this week in the magazine Nature.
They record the passage of asteroid 1994 PC1 near our planet
"We found that the source emits pulses every 18.18 minutes, an unusual periodicity which, to our knowledge, has not been observed previously," the authors note, "and when the emission does occur, it is highly linearly polarized, bright, persists for 30-60 seconds at a time, and is visible over a wide range of frequencies. ".
This object emits pulses every 18.18 minutes, an unusual periodicity that has never been observed, and during those times it is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky.
In principle this unknown body could be a type of neutron star called press, but these turn on and off in a matter of milliseconds or a few seconds, not every few minutes. Among them are the magnetars, endowed with a powerful magnetic field and expelling huge amounts of high energy in the form of X-rays, gamma rays and sometimes also radio emissions.
During the observations, it was found that the mysterious object is smaller than the Sun and that, as it rotated in space, it sent beams of radiation – lasting up to one minute every twenty – that crossed the line of sight. At that time she was one of the brightest radio sources from the sky. Furthermore, the radio waves were emitted highly polarized, suggesting that it has an extremely strong magnetic field.
ultra long period magnetar
In their article, the researchers propose that this object could be an ultra-long period magnetar: "This is a type of neutron star that rotates slowly and whose existence had been theoretically predicted," says the lead author, Natasha Hurley-Walker, "But no one believed we would directly detect one like this, because we didn't expect it to be so bright; it's somehow converting magnetic energy into radio waves much more efficiently than anything we've seen before."
Ultra-long period magnetars are a type of slowly rotating neutron star that had been predicted to exist in theory, but no one believed we would ever detect one like this one, so bright
— Curtin University/ICRAR
Another possibility that the team is considering is that it is a strange white dwarf –collapsed cores that most stars become at the end of their lives– but with an ultra-strong magnetic field.
Hurley-Walker and her team continue to monitor the object with the MWA (Forerunner of the Future) radio telescope. Square Kilometer Array) to see if it turns back on. "If it does, there are telescopes throughout the southern hemisphere and even in orbit that can point directly at it," says the researcher, who plans to search for more unusual objects of this type in the vast archives of the MWA and the help of the Center for Pawsey Supercomputing in Australia.
"Further detections will tell astronomers whether this is a single, rare event or a vast new population of objects that we haven't detected before," Hurley-Walker concludes.