Mystery circular objects sending out radio signals have appeared in space – and scientists are baffled
STRANGE circles of radio signals have appeared in space, leaving scientists scratching their heads.
The mysterious blobs of energy were spotted using a giant radio telescope in Australia and are unlike anything astronomers have seen before.
An international team of researchers describe four of the faint objects in a new scientific paper, naming the oddities “Odd Radio Circles” (ORCs).
Each ORC is a highly circular collection of radio waves that are brighter along their edges.
“Here we report the discovery of a class of circular feature in radio images that do not seem to correspond to any known types of object or artefact,” scientists wrote in their paper, which was posted to arXiv.
“They appear to be a new class of astronomical object.”
Scientists say the blobs of radio waves are unlike anything astronomers have seen before[/caption]
Experts identified the ORCs using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, one of the world’s most sensitive radio telescopes.
They were actually looking through data for a different study when they spotted the ring-shaped oddities.
It’s not clear precisely how far away they are, but they’re believed to be linked to distant galaxies.
While they’re within the Milky Way, they’re at high galactic latitudes, which means they’re a long way up from the galactic plane.
Scientists have a few theories as to what caused the ORCs.
One is that they simply appeared due to an instrument fault, although successful followup observations seem to have put that idea to rest.
What are FRBs, and why are they important?
Here’s what you need to know…
- FRBs, or fast radio bursts, are a mysterious space phenomenon
- They’re very quick radio bursts that last just a few milliseconds (or thousandths of seconds)
- They’re detected as huge spikes of energy that change in strength over time
- The first one was discovered back in 2007, found by looking back through space survey data
- Lots of FRBs have been found since then
- There’s also one FRB source that is sending out repeated bursts – and no one is quite sure why
- In fact, scientists have struggled to explain exactly what causes any FRB in the first place
- Theories include rapidly rotating neutron stars, black holes, and even alien life
- FRBs are important simply because they’re so baffling to experts
- Unlocking the secrets of what causes them will give us a much better understanding of what goes on beyond our galaxy
- And if it does turn out that some other life-form is causing these FRBs, it would be a world-changing discovery
They could also be shockwaves from a huge supernova or other explosive event outside the Milky Way.
“Several such classes of transient events, capable of producing a spherical shock wave, have recently been discovered, such as fast radio bursts, gamma-ray bursts, and neutron star mergers,” researchers wrote.
“However, because of the large angular size of the ORCs, any such transients would have taken place in the distant past.
“It is also possible that the ORCs represent a new category of a known phenomenon, such as the jets of a radio galaxy or blazar when seen end-on, down the ‘barrel’ of the jet,” they added.
“Alternatively, they may represent some remnant of a previous outflow from a radio galaxy.”
The research was posted to arXiv and submitted to Nature Astronomy, where it awaits peer review.
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What do you make of the ORCs? Let us know in the comments…
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