I shouted out on Slack. This was our first lockdown in 2021 in Perth in which we’d all been at home working. When space astronomers are looking for something to escape their anxiety. There’s nothing better than discovering a brand new mystery in the universe.
In 2020, I taught an undergraduate student Tyrone O’Doherty, a fun project. Search for radio sources that are evolving in a huge radio survey that I’m leading.
In the final quarter of the year , he’d discovered an unusual source. That was apparent in data as early as the beginning of 2018, but gone away within a couple of months. The source was named GLEAMX J162759.5-523504 in reference. To its survey that it was located in as well as its location.
Sources that change appearance and disappear are known as radio transients. And are typically a sign of the physics in play at a high level.
The Space Mystery Is About To Begin
In the spring of this year, I began looking into the source. Hoping the source to have been something that we had a clue about. However, it was a possibility that the source could change over time. And possibly suggest an explosion in a star or even a massive collision with space.
To comprehend the physics I was interested in determining. How brightness of the source relates to the frequency (in the electromagnetic spectrum). Therefore, I looked at the images of the same spot that were taken with different frequency. Prior to and after the detection and found that it was not there.
I was disappointed as false signals can be seen often due to telescope calibration problems. The Earth’s Ionosphere reflecting TV signals or satellites and aircraft flying over the horizon.
Space Further Information
Then I looked over further information. In an observation I made after 18 minutes, there the source was there again in the exact same spot. And with exact the same speed unlike anything that astronomers had observed before.
Then I was shivering in an uncontrollable sweat. There’s a global investigation to find the repeating cosmic radio signals broadcast at the same frequency. This is known as the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Did this be the moment when we realized the truth in in the universe?
The plot gets more complex
I downloaded more information and then posted information on Slack. The source was extremely brilliant. It was brighter than everything else in the image this was nothing to be sniff at.
The radio sources with the highest brightness are supermassive black holes. That emit massive jets of matter out into space at a velocity of light. What else did we find that might be more bright than this?
Colleagues Were Taking Note, And Posted
It’s recurring too slowly to be the pulse. It’s also too bright to be an flare star. What’s this? (alien emoji icon)?? ?
In a matter of hours I breathed a breath of relief. I’d discovered the source across many frequencies. Therefore, the power needed to create it must originate from a natural source. And not from an artificial source (and not from aliens)!
Similar to pulsars, which are highly magnetis, rotating neutron stars which emit radio waves. From their poles, radio waves repeat as clockwork approximately three times an hour. In actual fact, I could determine when they would be visible to the accuracy of one-tenth of an instant.
So I consulted our huge archives of data, including 40 petabytes worth of radio astronomy data gathered from the Murchison Widefield array located in Western Australia, during its eight years in operation. Utilizing powerful supercomputers, I analyzed hundreds of observations, and discovered 70 more observations that span three months of 2018, however, there was no evidence prior to or after.
Radio Frequency Space
The great thing about the radio frequency transients that when you’re in a good position to cover the frequency it is possible to determine the distance they’re from. This is due to the fact that the lower frequencies of radio arrive a bit earlier than higher ones, based on the distance they’ve traversed.
Our latest discovery is four light years away. It’s extremely distant, yet within our galaxy’s backyard.
The radio pulses were nearly completely focus. In astrophysics , this typically means the source is a powerful magnetic field. The pulses also changed shape within a fraction of a second, which means the source must have less than half of a light second in size which is much smaller than the size of our Sun.
Sharing the results with colleagues around the globe Everyone was delight but nobody knew exactly what was happening.
The Jury Isn’t Yet Out
There are two main explanations for this compact, rotatable extremely magnetic astrophysical structure that is a white dwarf or neutron star. They remain when stars have exhausted their fuel and then collapse, creating magnetic fields that are millions to quintillions times more powerful than the Sun’s.
We haven’t yet discovered neutron stars that behave exactly like this theorists have predicted that these objects, referred to as ultra-long period magnetars, may exist. However, nobody thought that one would be this brilliant.
The first time that we’ve witnessed a single radio station which repeats itself every twenty minutes. The reason we didn’t see it before was because we didn’t pay attention.
Transient Space Radio Sources
When I first began looking into the sources, I became limited by my assumptions Transient radio sources can change rapidly as pulsars do, or slow as the remnants of the supernova.
I wasn’t searching for sources that repeated in 18-minute intervals, which is an uncommon time for any class of object. And I didn’t want to find something that could appear for a couple of months, but then vanish for good. Nobody was.
As astronomers construct new telescopes to gather huge amounts of information, it’s crucial that to keep our eyes and our techniques for searching open to the possibility of new discoveries. The universe is fill with amazing things to see, if we opt to look.