Photo credit: The Sun
Ziteng Wang, a PhD student in astronomy at the University of Sydney in Australia, led a team of scientists studying fast radio bursts in the Milky Way Galaxy. They spotted a strange unidentified radio source that flashed for weeks at a time only to suddenly go dark object in the galactic center. These observations were captured by the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), and the source has been dubbed ASKAP J173608.2−321635. Read more for a short video and additional information.
This signal might actually represent part of a new class of objects being discovered through radio imaging surveys. Using the AKSAP’s data captured between April 2019 – September 2020, the team witnessed the source 13 times with a signal strength that varied by a factor of 100. There are many possible origins for the radio signals, but the team has yet to pinpoint it to just one.
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The strangest property of this source is that it is highly polarized. Our eye cannot distinguish between circularly polarized and unpolarized light, but ASKAP has the equivalent of polarized sunglasses to filter it out. These kinds of sources are really rare. Adding to the mystery, the source of the radio signals turns on and off irregularly. The brightness of this source can change dramatically, declining in a single day, but sometimes it can last for a few weeks,” said Wang.