An international team led by astronomers from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has discovered a new type of stellar object that challenges our understanding of the physics of neutron stars.
Astronomers discovered the object, a rare type of star known as an ultra-long period magnetar, using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope on Wajarri Yamaji Country in outback Western Australia.
The research, ‘A long-period radio transient active for three decades’ was published in Nature on July 20, 2023.
Lead author Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker said the magnetar, named GPM J1839−10, is 15,000 light-years away from Earth in the Scutum constellation.
"This remarkable object challenges our understanding of neutron stars and magnetars, which are some of the most exotic and extreme objects in the Universe," she said.
The discovery has important implications for our understanding of the physics of neutron stars and the behaviour of magnetic fields in extreme environments.
It also raises new questions about the formation and evolution of magnetars and could shed light on the origin of mysterious phenomena such as fast radio bursts.
The MWA is a precursor to the world's largest radio astronomy observatory, the Square Kilometre Array, which is under construction in Australia and South Africa. The MWA celebrates a significant milestone this year as it completes a decade of operations and international scientific discovery.
AARNet is proud to provide the high capacity and scalable connectivity Australian astronomers need to make discoveries of this kind. Astronomers rely on our network for the transfer of large-scale data captured by the MWA radio telescope to the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre more than 500 kilometres away in Perth and collaborators across the nation and worldwide.
Read the original media release, published by ICRAR, to learn more about the discovery.
Featured image: An artist’s impression of the ultra-long period magnetar—a rare type of star with extremely strong magnetic fields that can produce powerful bursts of energy. Credit: ICRAR