By Grace Hamilton, Staff Writer
Australian scientists reported the discovery of a “spinning object” in the Milky Way last week. The object was first discovered by Curtin University student Tyrone O’Doherty in the Murchison Widefield Array, a region in the Australian outback.
According to the team that made the discovery, the object releases a massive eruption of radio energy for a full minute every 18 minutes. The length of the eruption is unusual, though the existence of similar objects within the galaxy is not. These objects are referred to as “transients.”
The research team was able to conclude that the transient is 4,000 light-years away from Earth, has a strong magnetic field and is incredibly bright.
Scientists theorize that it is an “ultra-long period magnetar” — and the first of its kind. This would mean that it is the collapsed core of a star that exploded as a supernova. It is highly magnetized and rotates slowly, while emitting the light that is a burst of energy.
The object is incredibly unusual, as most objects of its kind do not emit such bright energy. It is also relatively close to Earth, with researchers describing it as located in “our galactic backyard.”
“It’s mind-bogglingly wonderful that the universe is still full of surprises,” said Natasha Hurley-Walker, the lead researcher of the team that is studying the object.
It is now being monitored closely in the hopes that it will “turn on” again.