Astronomers have stumbled upon a celestial body that has been sending radio waves through space for decades, which could significantly alter their current comprehension of extreme cosmic bodies.
The First Instance
In March 2018, Tyrone O’Doherty, a doctoral student at Curtin University, first observed a rotating unusual object in space. This celestial body emitted massive bursts of energy and emitted radiation every hour, repeating the process thrice an hour.
During those instances, it transformed into the most radiant origin of observable radio waves on Earth, akin to a cosmic beacon visible through radio telescopes. Scientists speculated that this occurrence could be the remnants of a collapsed star, such as a dense neutron star or an extinguished white dwarf, possessing a powerful magnetic field. Alternatively, it might represent an entirely different and unidentified celestial body.
In Search for More Clues
After publishing a study detailing their findings in January 2022, O’Doherty and a group of astronomers from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia, initiated a quest to discover another example.
We encountered a perplexing situation. Consequently, we commenced a search for comparable objects to ascertain whether this was an isolated incident or merely the beginning of a larger pattern.
Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker | Senior Lecturer, Curtin University node of ICRAR
During the period from July to September 2022, the team conducted sky observations using the Murchison Widefield Array, a radio telescope situated in Wajarri Yamaji Country in remote Western Australia.
The Discovery: GPM J1839−10
The researchers came across a celestial body located at a distance of 15,000 light-years from Earth within the Scutum constellation. They have named this object as GPM J1839−10, and it emits radio waves in regular intervals of 22 minutes. These bursts of energy can persist for up to five minutes.
Astronomers speculate that this celestial body might be a magnetar, a rare type of star characterized by immensely strong magnetic fields that can give rise to powerful and energetic emissions. However, the peculiar aspect of this discovery lies in its deviation from the norm, as known magnetars typically release their energy within a few seconds or a few minutes at most.
The unveiling of this extraordinary finding was documented in a study published in the journal Nature.
Hurley-Walker, the principal author of the report, commented, “This celestial body poses a challenge to our current comprehension of neutron stars and magnetars, both of which represent some of the most peculiar and extreme objects in the vast expanse of the Universe.”
To gain further insights into the recently identified object, additional observations were conducted using various ground-based and space-based telescopes, such as the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa and the XMM-Newton space telescope.
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