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University of Sydney astronomers has found a strange source of radio waves. Science Alert said analysis has so far failed to establish the origin of the source, which has been designated ASKAP J173608.2-321635.

The researchers characterize the mystery item as a highly polarized, fluctuating radio source situated near the Galactic Center and with no obvious multi-wavelength equivalent.

The study, "Discovery of ASKAP J173608.2-321635 as a Highly-Polarized Transient Point Source with the Australian SKA Pathfinder," is available on preprint server arXiv.

ASKAP J173608.2-321635 might belong to a new class of objects found by radio imaging surveys, they add.

While examining data from the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), which was particularly intended to pick up radio signals from the depths of the cosmos, the researchers found the mystery source of radio waves. Radio transients are short bursts of radio waves that typically herald unexpected astronomical phenomena. In instance, a research published only last week revealed that a mystery source of radio waves found in 2017 was caused by a previously unseen premature supernova produced by a neighboring black hole.

 Is the Milky Way Sending Earth A Message? Scientists Are Now Close to Uncovering This Strange Signal
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
This artist’s impression represents the path of the fast radio burst FRB 181112 traveling from a distant host galaxy to reach the Earth. FRB 181112 was pinpointed by the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope.

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Mystery Item Underscores Need for Higher Survey Cadence

Even if additional research reveals that ASKAP J173608.2-32163 is a known object, the new data supplied by the powerful radio waves might tell a lot about it. According to the researchers, the item is very changeable, emitting radio signals for up to weeks at a time before suddenly disappearing for up to three months.

ASKAP J173608.2-32163 was discovered in April 2019 by the AKAP array, which was looking for radio transients. FR24News said the same object was spotted 13 times between April 2019 and August 2020. It was later discovered in February 2021 by the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, then in April 2021 by the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). The source is remarkably elusive, as it hasn't been found in any X-ray or near-infrared studies, nor has it been found in archives of ancient radio data examined by University of Sydney researchers. This rules out a supernova, a pulsar, or a flare star, all of which were previously thought to be the cause.

The item has specific characteristics with unexplained signals discovered around the galaxy's core, known as Galactic Center Radio Transients (GCRT). Researchers found three of them in the early 2000s, and astronomers have yet to come up with an explanation for them. According to the researchers, future observations will help them better grasp how prevalent GCRTs and objects like ASKAP J173608.2-32163 are.

Increasing the survey cadence and comparing the findings of this search to the results of other locations will help scientists comprehend how really unique ASKAP J173608.2-321635 is and if it is connected to the Galactic plane, which should eventually help us determine its nature.

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