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 a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ 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 e̳x̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ 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.