Sydney, October 12 (IANS) An international team of astronomers has discovered unusual signals coming from the direction of the center of the Milky Way for the first time.
The radio waves do not match the currently understood patterns of the changing radio source and could suggest a new class of planet, said the team from Australia, the US, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Spain and France.
Astronomers first thought it could be a pulsar – a very dense type of rotating dead star – or a type of star that emits huge solar flares, but the signals did not match this type of celestial object.
Using CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope, the team found ASKAP J173608.2-321635 and then tracked the MeerKAT telescope of the South African Radio Astronomical Observatory.
“This object was unique in that it began to be invisible, became bright, faded and then reappeared. This behavior was extraordinary,” said Professor Tara Murphy of the Sydney Institute of Astronomy and the School of Physics. The findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The team first detected six radio signals from the source during the nine months of 2020. Astronomers tried to find the object in visual light, but found nothing. They turned to the Parkes radio telescope and again failed to discover the source.
Since the signal was intermittent, the team watched it for 15 minutes every few weeks, hoping to see it again. However, this further discovery did not reveal much more about the secrets of this transient radio source.
“The strangest feature of this new signal is that it has a very high polarization. This means that its light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates over time,” said lead author Ziteng Wang, a doctoral student at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics.
“The brightness of the object also varies dramatically, by a factor of 100, and the signal turns on and off apparently randomly. We’ve never seen anything like it,” Wang added.
Although the new object, ASKAP J173608.2-321635, shares some properties with the radio passages of the Galactic Center, there are also differences, which adds to the mystery. Scientists plan to monitor the object carefully to look for more clues as to what it might be.
rvt / vd