Astronomers in Australia are reporting a “spooky” phenomenon they say becomes one of the brightest objects in the sky for a while every 20 minutes.
The source of the light is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth, scientists believe.
Natasha Hurley-Walker, an astrophysicist from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research at Australia’s Curtin University, told Bloomberg News that seeing the odd bursts of radiation was a bit spooky because “there’s nothing known in the sky that does that.”
What is causing the bursts of light is unknown, according to Hurley-Walker.
“It’s in our galactic backyard,” Hurley-Walker said of what could be a neutron star or a white dwarf, which is a collapsed star core that produces a powerful magnetic field.
A white dwarf is a small very dense star that is typically the size of a planet and is formed when a low-mass star has exhausted all its central nuclear fuel, according to NASA.
“But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright,” Hurley-Walkers said. “Somehow, it’s converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we’ve seen before,” she said.
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