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Scientists are Picking Up Mysterious Radio Signals from the Center of the Galaxy They Can't Explain

Source - As our eyes on the sky grow ever more sensitive, we're going to find more and more things we've never seen before.

Such is the case for a newly discovered source of radio signals, located not far from the center of the galaxy. It's called ASKAP J173608.2-321635, and astronomers have been unable to figure out what kind of cosmic object best fits its weird properties. ...

"We have presented the discovery and characterization of ASKAP J173608.2-321635: a highly-polarized, variable radio source located near the Galactic Center and with no clear multi-wavelength counterpart," explain a team of astronomers led by Ziteng Wang of the University of Sydney in Australia. ...

It's highly variable, emitting radio waves for weeks at a time, and then disappearing on rapid timescales. The signal is also highly polarized – that is, the orientation of the oscillation of the electromagnetic wave is twisted, both linearly and circularly. ...

All up, it's really hard to figure out what the source might be. There are several types of stars that are known to vary in radio wavelengths, such as stars that flare frequently, or close binaries with active chromospheres, or that eclipse each other. The non-detection in X-ray and near-infrared wavelengths makes this unlikely though. ...

Nor is a pulsar likely: a type of neutron star with sweeping beams of radio light, like a cosmic lighthouse. Pulsars have regular periodicity, on a timescale of hours, and ASKAP J173608.2-32163 was detected fading, which is inconsistent with pulsars. Also, there was a three-month span with no detections, which is also inconsistent with pulsars.

X-ray binaries, gamma-ray bursts, and supernovae were also all ruled out.

OK. No big deal. Nothing to get your lab coat in a twist about. Just the most brilliant experts on the universe from around the globe picking up mysterious radio transmissions they can't identify. highly-polarized, variable radio transmissions, at that. But they're having zero issues with telling us what it isn't. So that's a plus. 

Basically they've ruled out everything it can't be. Which is, pretty much every natural phenomena. You know, the ones that would make us feel OK that this is a normal thing. It's not a plusar, X-rays, gamma-ray bursts or supernovae. And I'm going to add that we can rule out the galaxies Morning Zoo DJs, Captain Marvel responding to Nick Fury's 1990s pager or God's WiFi. Which leaves free us to speculate as to specifically what horror great, cosmic horror awaits us. 

If I was one of these literal rocket scientists, the first thing I'd do is to give this thing a proper name. Because the harbinger of our doom deserves something catchier than ASKAP J173608.2-32163, which reads like your UPS tracking code and the serial number on the back of your router had a baby. If this is some interstellar declaration of war or something, we deserve to know that. If some distant world is warning us the Borg are heading to our section of space, level with us. If it's the death rattle of some advanced civilization who succumbed to the reality of the Fermi Paradox and with their dying breath let us know we'll all end up going full Planet of the Apes like they did, let's hear it. 

Best case scenario, it's just a friendly, deep space message-in-a-bottle, the kind we've been searching the skies for for decades now. Or maybe it's like that early SNL sketch about how when the launched Voyager, they put a record on there with music samples:

But given the spike in UFO sightings and the way we've basically screwing up everything on our end, I don't see where we could be that lucky. To me, it's most likely this is another species who knows about us and is calling their shot. It's not a matter of whether the Death Star gets here to reduce us to Alderaan rubble, but how soon. Can't say we didn't deserve it. Or that we weren't warned.