Astronomers have been left confused by a mysterious object close to Earth that is emitting powerful bursts of radio waves every 18 minutes and 18 seconds.
The object, which was first discovered by a student named Tyrone O'Doherty in Western Australia, was said to have been releasing giant bursts of energy three times per hour with astonishing regularity.
Scientists say it is 'completely unexpected'. Radio astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker, who led a study into the phenomenon, said:
"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 4000 lightyears away.
"It's in our galactic backyard."
Astronomers have speculated that the object, whic hhas an enormous magnetic field, could be a neutron star or a white dwarf. Whatever it is, it is spinning so quickly that Earth receives a burst of radiation regularly for hours or weeks at a time before it disappears and reappears again.
"The fact that it is repeating so regularly (the same rate to within one ten thousandth of a second over the three months it was visible) means it is quite likely to be a rotating object," said radio astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker who led a study into the object.
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Steve Chien, Head of AI at NASA-JPL, told The Daily Star that such radio signals are of high interest to space scientists because of their potential alien connections.
"There are some people who think this is some signs of some alien civilisation reaching out to us. All I would say on that, because I'm not an astrobiologist, is that that is an explanation and I don't think we can rule it out.
"But is it the most likely explanation? That would not be the consensus of the scientific community. It's interesting because we are constantly learning new things about the universe and, you never know, is what I would say."
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