Calling planet earth: Mysterious radio signals from outside Solar System baffle scientists

by Technology | 14-10-2021 | 1126 views

Space researchers made a mystifying discovery when they detected unusual radio waves emiting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The energy signal is unlike any phenomenon studied before and it leads to a possibility of an unknown stellar object's presence, as per a new study.

The signal switches on and off randomly and the brightness of the object varies dramatically, Ziteng Wang, lead author of the new study in The Astrophysical Journal and a doctoral student in the School of Physics at The University of Sydney said.

"The strangest property of this new signal is that it has a very high polarisation. This means its light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates with time," he said in a news release.

Study coauthor Tara Murphy, a professor at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and the School of Physics at The University of Sydney, in the release said, "Because the signal was intermittent, we observed it for 15 minutes every few weeks, hoping that we would see it again." 

"Luckily, the signal returned, but we found that the behaviour of the source was dramatically different -- the source disappeared in a single day, even though it had lasted for weeks in our previous ASKAP observations," she said.

The fickle object has been named after its coordinates in the night sky: ASKAP J173608.2-321635.

The object was initially spotted during a survey of the sky using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope, known as ASKAP. Follow-up observations were conducted with the the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales and South African Radio Astronomy Observatory's MeerKAT telescope.

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