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Space & Astronomy

Mysterious pulsing object could be new class of star

By T.K. Randall
January 26, 2022 · Comment icon 18 comments

Signals from neutron stars can be mistaken for alien signals. Image Credit: ESO / L. Calcada
Astronomers have revealed the discovery of what is believed to be a new type of neutron star.
Detected in the form of a sequence of repeating signals, the object first piqued the curiosity of astronomers back in 2018 and was even briefly considered as evidence of intelligent alien life.

The fact that the signals seemed to stop after just three months was particularly intriguing.

"It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that," said astronmer Natasha Hurley-Walker whose team made the discovery.

Following further investigation, however, it was determined that the anomalous signals were most likely being produced by a rotating object in space rather an extraterrestrial civilization.
Situated 4,000 light years away, the object could be what is known as an "ultra-long period magnetar" - a theoretical form of neutron star ( a type of tiny, ultra-dense star left behind after a particularly large star explodes as a supernova ) with a magnetic field more powerful than that of any other known object in the universe.

"It's a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist, theoretically," said Hurley-Walker. "But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn't expect them to be so bright."

One mystery still remains however - why did the signals stop after just a few months ?

One possibility is that a specific event such as a starquake might have triggered the release of a large blast of energy into space ( and the series of pulses which followed ).

As things stand though, it will take further study to know for sure.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (18)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by toast 10 months ago
You are welcome. Your post reminds me of: Reading your post make me think we are close to the door of the more bizarre and inexplicable. Or something beyond that. At least, something.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Damien99 10 months ago
Sounds like it’s a magestar or slow sound neutron star
Comment icon #11 Posted by bison 10 months ago
Magnetars are highly magnetized neutron stars, which flare unpredictably, probably due to star quakes on their surfaces. They do not flare in a repeating, regular pattern, such has been reported from this new object. Pulsars are caused by our intercepting the beams of a rotating neutron star. These stars act very like electrical generators (dynamos). They convert their spin to electrical energy, due to a rotating magnetic field, and then to, among other things, radio waves.  The faster the field rotates, the greater the energy produced. The slowest pulsar has a period of about 11 seconds. Assu... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by bison 10 months ago
I see evidence of at least four different periodicities is these newly-reported radio emissions. Besides the ~18-minute cycle of groups of bursts of radio energy and the  typically minute-long character of each burst, we have reports of the following: The impulses would fade in and out over a period of several hours. Two month-long periods of activity were noted fro January 3rd to February 2nd, 2018, and again, from February 28th to March 28th. This leaves a month-long gap, without activity, between, them. What this all means, I couldn't say, but there is certainly food for thought here! If th... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by bison 10 months ago
Found this interesting old article while searching for more information on the strange new object. It seems that the discovery of another, pulsar-like object with a very similar pulsation period was announced,  in December, 2011. This object is known as SXP 1062. It was found by an x-ray satellite. It's period: 1,062 seconds, or 16.7 minutes. This is notably close to the period of the new object: 1,091 seconds or 18.18 minutes. Please find a link to an article about this discovery, below: 
Comment icon #14 Posted by bison 10 months ago
The article linked below brings out a couple more interesting details about this object. It was not seen in observations of this sky position for five years before the outburst, nor in the four years since. Since the spinning of this object was too slow to produce the energy observed, as in a pulsar, another energy-producing process had to be considered.  It's conjectured that the intense magnetic field believed to surround the object became twisted. In this way energy is stored up over time. When the field snaps back into its normal configuration, the energy is suddenly released.  Similar  ma... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Damien99 10 months ago
WhT type of several odd occurrences 
Comment icon #16 Posted by bison 10 months ago
Odd coincidences, yes. Reconnection events release stored  stellar energy all at once. Their energy output can be very high. It's rather like a full water tank that collapses on one side. A torrent of water whooshes out suddenly, for a relatively short time, then nothing more.  We have, in this instance, month-long periods of sustained, high-energy output, only broken up into thrice-hourly pulses by the supposed spinning of the star. To account for this, there would have to be a huge number of reconnection events happening over  a period of a month. They would then have to stop completely for ... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Damien99 10 months ago
I get so chances are if they haven’t seen it in this long the object is probably gone maybe exploded or burnt out I guess 
Comment icon #18 Posted by bison 10 months ago
Well, if it's a neutron star or white dwarf, as speculated, it already exploded or burned out a long time ago. These defunct stars are able to continue emitting certain forms of latent energy for long periods of time.  If it were a white dwarf star in a binary system, it might go nova, even repeatedly, as the other star dumped fusible material onto its surface. That wouldn't match the reported behavior of this object, though.  

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