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Astrophysicists discover mysterious energy pulse in Milky Way

By Megan Hadley
Astrophysicists discover mysterious energy pulse in Milky Way
Scientists reveal their findings of a radio transient in a new study released Wednesday. File Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Astrophysicists have discovered a radio transient, or a burst of energy, that pulses every 18.8 minutes in the Milky Way.

Natasha Hurley-Walker, an astrophysicist at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research at Australia's Curtin University, led the team of scientists who discovered the mysterious object. They initially believed the pulses of energy to be from a neutron star or a white star with a powerful magnetic field.

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"This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations," she said in a statement.

"That was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that.

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"And it's really quite close to us -- about 4,000 lightyears away. It's in our galactic backyard."

Curtin University honors student Tyrone O'Doherty made the discovery using the Murchison Widefield Array telescope. The team described the radio transients Wednesday in the Nature journal.

"It's exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object," O'Doherty said."The MWA's wide field of view and extreme sensitivity are perfect for surveying the entire sky and detecting the unexpected."

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"The high-frequency radio sky is bursting with synchrotron transients from massive stellar explosions" the authors from Australia and China wrote in the journal article.

"We find that the source pulses every 18.18 minutes, an unusual periodicity that has, to our knowledge, not been observed previously."

More research is needed to figure out what is causing the bursts of energy, but they think it could be called a magnetar-- a kind of dead star.

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Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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