A mysterious space object initially spotted in March 2018 is reported to beam out radiation three time per hour and provide the brightest source of radio waves viewable from Earth.
CNN reports astronomers are still unable to identify the celestial lighthouse, which beams out radio signals every 18 minutes, but believe it could be "a remnant of a collapsed star, either a dense neutron star or a dead white dwarf star, with a strong magnetic field," or something completely different, after a study on the unidentified object was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday (January 26).
"This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations," said lead study author Natasha Hurley-Walker, an astrophysicist at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, in a statement via CNN.
"That was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that. And it's really quite close to us -- about 4,000 light-years away. It's in our galactic backyard."
The mysterious object was discovered by Curtin University doctoral student Tyrone O'Doherty using the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in the Western Australia outback.
"It's exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object," O'Doherty said in a statement via CNN. "The MWA's wide field of view and extreme sensitivity are perfect for surveying the entire sky and detecting the unexpected."
The object is unique in that it only turns on for about a minute every 18 minutes, but displays an incredibly light presence.
Researchers said observations made have matched the definition of an ultra-long period magnetar, however, magnetars typically flare by the second, while the object in question takes more time.
Researchers plan to continue monitoring the object to see if it turns back on while looking for more evidence of similarities to other discoveries.