Astronomers Discover a Mysterious Star That Flashes Every 20 Minutes. But What is it?

A radio map of the Milky Way showing the location of the new transient. Credit: Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team

Just 4,000 light-years from Earth is a strange, star-sized object. It’s been observed by radio telescopes, but astronomers aren’t sure what it is. They call it a long period transient.

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What’s Causing the Mysterious Radio Waves Coming From the Center of the Milky Way?

An artist's impression of ASKAP J173608.2-321635, the mysterious radio source at the center of the Milky Way. Image Credit: Sebastian Zentilomo.

The center of the Milky Way is a mysterious place. Astronomers think there’s a supermassive black hole there, though it could be dark matter instead. The region is densely packed with stars, dominated by red giants. And because of all the dust between Earth and the galactic center, we can’t see anything with visible light, ultraviolet light, or low-energy x-rays.

But we can detect radio waves, and there are some unexplained ones coming from the center of the galaxy, and adding to the mystery.

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