What is this weird flash from the center of the galaxy?


Not far from the center of the Milky Way, astronomers recently witnessed a mysterious flash of radio waves. Many objects (in fact, most) emit radio waves – this is not unusual. What has caught the attention of astronomers is that this target does not appear to fit any category of known radio sources.

The source of this signal, ASKAP J173608.2-‘321635, does not appear to behave like another known body that produces such radiation. It also cannot be seen in visible, infrared or X-ray wavelengths – only in radio waves.

“We presented the discovery and characterization of ASKAP J173608.2-321635: a highly polarized variable radio source located near the Galactic Center and without clear counterpart at multiple wavelengths. ASKAP J173608.2-321635 may represent part of a new class of objects discovered thanks to radio imaging surveys ”, explains a team of researchers in The Journal of Astrophysics.

Now you see it, now you don’t see it

Astronomers found the radio signal using the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). This instrument is one of the most sensitive radio telescopes in the world.

During the first deep search of the sky using ASKAP, astronomers discovered another unusual body type never seen before.

“The first big surprise of the EMU pilot investigation was the discovery of mysterious odd radio circles (ORCs), which appear to be giant radio transmitting rings, nearly a million light-years away. diameter, surrounding distant galaxies.

These had never been seen before because they are so rare and weak. We still don’t know what they are, but we are working hard to find out ”, the CSIRO team reports.

Between April 2019 and August 2020, this strange new signal from the center of the galaxy was recorded 13 times. Follow-up observations at MeerKAT radio telescope recorded a signal in February 2021. This strange flash from the center of the galaxy was also seen by astronomers in April 2021 using the Australian Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). However, no such signal was observed when examining the area using the Murriyang radio telescope in Australia.

A polarizing subject

Credit: The Cosmic Companion
Seen in visible light, the galactic center of the Milky Way is blocked by dark clouds.

Typically, when looking at flashing objects, astronomers may think the target is a neutron star. These ultra-dense stellar corpses spin quickly, pushing beams of energy outward, which can look like lightning to astronomers on Earth.

This strange flash from the center of the galaxy continued for weeks before suddenly ceasing “the target spent three months without exploding before resuming. The signal also fades over time. This intermittent behavior is unlike a pulsar.

Flaming stars are generally associated with near infrared emissions and X-rays accompanying their radio bursts. No additional wavelength has yet been recorded from this strange flash coming from the center of the galaxy.

Supernovae, gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), and x-ray binary star systems have all been ruled out as possible sources of this intriguing signal.

ASKAP J173608.2’32163’s radio waves are also strongly polarized, suggesting a strong magnetic field, either at the source or in the space between the target and our home world.

As new, next-generation instruments come online in the years and decades to come, astronomers will almost certainly continue to uncover new mysteries like this eerie signal near the heart of the Earth. Milky WayGalaxy.

This article was originally published on The cosmic companion by James Maynard, Founder and Publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He’s a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the cat. You can read the original article here.


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