- Astronomers have spotted a new class of radio objects in space that has never been documented before.
- Researchers have ruled out most of the possible explanations, but there are some that remain, including that the signals are the remains of certain cosmic events.
- In a new research paper, scientists offer their best guesses, but can’t say for sure what they saw.
When astronomers have used high-powered telescopes to scan deep into space, they never know what they might find, but in general, they know what they are looking at once they see it. It’s rare to find a whole new class of unidentified object, but that’s exactly what researchers using the Australian Kilometer Pathfinder telescope found while scanning the sky for radio signatures.
The team of scientists discovered four strange objects which they describe as “circular disks with shiny edges” which do not correspond to any object known in the archives. The team called them ORC, short for “strange radio circles,” and they can’t wait to learn more about them.
As LiveScience reports, the researchers were quickly able to rule out some possible explanations, such as newborn galaxies, nebulae or supernovas. They even wondered if the strange objects could only be imagery artifacts, but could also exclude them. It’s a real mystery, but researchers have other theories they can’t prove or refute at this point. One such explanation is that the rings are what remains of a massive explosive event very far in space.
What makes ORCs so difficult to pin down is the fact that although they are visible in radio wavelengths, they cannot be seen using visible light or even infrared. They appear to be radio signals only, but their uniform shape suggests that the signal can radiate from a central point, supporting the idea that circles are cosmic shock waves propagating in space.
However, even if this theory holds, researchers still do not know what caused them, their age or what could happen to them in the future. They are thought to be extragalactic, which means they are not located in the Milky Way, but the team cannot say for sure how far these strange signals are.
“We have discovered, to our knowledge, a new class of radio astronomical objects, consisting of a circular disc, which in some cases is cleared by the members, and sometimes contains a galaxy in its center. None of the known types of radio objects seem to be able to explain it, ”write the researchers. “We therefore consider that it is likely that ORCs represent a new type of object found in radio astronomy images. The brightening of the edges in some ORCs suggests that this circular image may represent a spherical object, which in turn suggests a spherical wave from a transient event. ”
This is all very exciting, but we may have to wait a moment before astronomers find out exactly what they are looking at.