Can you hear me? Mysterious radio waves emitted from nearby galaxy

There is something strange in the cosmic neighbourhood. An unknown object in the nearby galaxy M82 has started sending out radio waves, and the emission does not look like anything seen anywhere in the universe before.

“We don’t know what it is,” says co-discoverer Tom Muxlow of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics near Macclesfield, UK.

The thing appeared in May last year, while Muxlow and his colleagues were monitoring an unrelated stellar explosion in M82 using the MERLIN network of radio telescopes in the UK. A bright spot of radio emission emerged over only a few days, quite rapidly in astronomical terms. Since then it has done very little except baffle astrophysicists.

It certainly does not fit the pattern of radio emissions from supernovae: they usually get brighter over a few weeks and then fade away over months, with the spectrum of the radiation changing all the while. The new source has hardly changed in brightness over the course of a year, and its spectrum is steady.

His best guess is still that the radio source is some kind of dense object accreting surrounding material, perhaps a large black hole or a black hole in an unusual environment. Perhaps the phenomenon also happens occasionally in our galaxy, but is more common in M82 because it is a “starburst” galaxy – a cosmic cauldron where massive stars are forming and exploding at a much higher rate than in the Milky Way, creating a lot of new black holes.

Source: newscientist.com

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