Australian astronomers have discovered a number of inexplicable signals that they believe could be “a new class of astronomical objects”.
A team of international researchers at the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in the western region of the continent has referred to the objects as “Odd Radio Circles” (ORCs).
Under the leadership of astrophysicist Ray Norris from Western Sydney University, the scientists shared their findings with arXiv, an open access archive for scientific articles, and their report is awaiting peer review for publication in Nature Astronomy.
Her study describes four ORCs that appear as glowing spheres, three of which have different, bright rings around the circular object ̵
“Circular features are known in astronomical radio images and usually represent a spherical object such as a supernova remnant, a planetary nebula, a circumstellar shell or a front screen such as a protoplanetary disk or a star-forming galaxy. They wrote in their report.
“They can also arise from imaging [artifacts] bright sources caused by calibration errors or insufficient deconvolution. Here we report the discovery of a class of circular features in radio images that do not appear to correspond to any of these known object types [artifact]but seem to be a new class of astronomical objects, ”they explained.
The ORCs were first discovered in 2019 during a night sky survey that lasted from July to November for the Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU). They explain that an undefined object can be considered a glitch, but three or more suggest a pattern. The “radio quiet zone” around ASKAP makes the probability of an instrumental idiosyncrasy less likely, according to the Live Science report. In addition, archive data from the Giant MetreWave radio telescope in India confirmed the presence of one of the ORCs discovered at ASKAP.
“[The objects] could indicate a new phenomenon that we haven’t really studied yet, ”said Kristine Spekkens of the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University.
“It may also be an extension of a previously known class of objects that we have not been able to research,” Spekkens, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science on Wednesday. She also noticed that imaging revealed galaxies at the center of two of the four ORCs, which could indicate that they were formed by these galaxies.
EMU project scientists said upcoming radio wavelength studies could uncover about 70 million new radio objects, which contributes to their current protocol of only 2.5 million such phenomena.
“This is a really nice indication of the shape of things that can be expected in radio astronomy in the next few years,” added Spekkens. “History shows us that we are opening a new one [avenue of looking at] Space to explore … we always find new and exciting things. “