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Every 18 minutes, a strange object in space fires out radio beams

By: April Carson

Astronomers stumbled on a celestial object releasing huge bursts of energy while scanning the cosmos - and it's unlike anything they've ever seen before.

The spinning space object emitted radiation three times per hour in March 2018, creating a brilliant pinhole of light. It became the brightest source of radio waves observable from Earth during those instances, functioning as a heavenly lighthouse.

According to astronomers, it could be the remnant of a collapsed star, such as a dense neutron star or a dead white dwarf with a powerful magnetic field.

This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations, according to lead study author Natasha Hurley-Walker of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

"That was totally unexpected. It was frightening for an astronomer since there's nothing in the sky that does that. And it's actually quite close to us; it's about 4,000 light-years away. It's in our galactic backyard."

Tyrone O'Doherty, a Curtin University doctoral candidate in astronomy, was studying the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in Western Australia's outback when he made the unusual discovery.

"It's wonderful to see that the source I found last year is such a strange thing," O'Doherty added. "The MWA's huge field of view and high sensitivity are ideal for discovering unusual objects throughout the sky.

The death of a large star's remains

Transients are a type of flaring space object that appear to switch on and off.

"When studying transients, you're looking at the death of a massive star or the remnants it creates as it erupts," added study coauthor Gemma Anderson, ICRAR-Curtin astrophysicist, in a statement. "Slow transients" -- such as supernovae -- can appear over a few days before fading away after a few months. The pulsar, for example, flashes on and off in milliseconds or seconds.

The new, exceptionally bright object, on the other hand, only came on for about a minute every 18 minutes. According to the researchers', their findings may match up with the definition of an ultra-long time magnetar. Magnetars typically erupt within seconds of each other, but this object takes longer.

"It's a predicted type of slowly spinning neutron star that hasn't been observed in the real world before," Hurley-Walker added. "But we didn't anticipate them to be so bright, and somehow it's converting magnetic energy into radio waves much more efficiently than anything we've seen before."

The scientists will keep an eye on the device to see whether it turns back on, while they scour the region for telltale signs of other comparable phenomena.

"It's likely that we'll find more detections and learn whether this was a one-of-a-kind event or if there's a whole new population out there that we haven't seen before," Hurley-Walker added.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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