Scientists Are Confused by a Mysterious Space Object Sending Radio Signals Every 18 Minutes

Where are they coming from, and what is being sent?

Radio signals from outer space

Established researchers are excited about the news that there are frequent radio transmissions from a space object. The signals were found by an understudy Tyrone O’Doherty from Curtin University, utilising the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a unique radio telescope framework situated in the outback of Western Australia.

The object, which is around 4000 light-years away from earth and is currently under the observation of ICRAR researchers and named GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3, has been sending a wide scope of frequencies that the researchers have never heard the likes of before.

Tyrone discovered the object using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). The MWA based in Western Australia is a low-frequency radio telescope. The front-end of the MWA consists of 4,096 antennas arranged in 256 regular grids spread over several miles within the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).
The ICRAR (The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) is a joint venture between Curtin University based in Perth and The University of Western Australia based in Crawley. The State Government of Western Australia supports the organization.


Dr. Hurley-Walker of Curtin University supervising the project, which uses the MWA that found GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3, is confident the frequencies are not artificial frequencies.’

The search for more outer space radio signals hidden in super computer data storage

The data from the MWA is transmitted to the Pawsey Supercomputing Center in Perth and stored in vast archives. Researchers now plan to analyze the archives to find similar instances of other objects pulsing radio waves.

Space experts are curious if the discovery of the radio signals in outer space is rare one-off event for this object or a if there are other occurrences recorded in the archives that they’d never noticed before.


ICRAR scientists at this stage have ruled the signals being caused by an alien population, but consider the possibility of a population of objects that give off different radio frequencies.

What kind of object would send the frequency that ICRAR scientists are so intrigued about? It is believed the object could be a magnetar. A magnetar is a slow spinning neutron star that has only been theorised about before and never seen.

GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3 is ‘incredibly bright and smaller than the Sun, emitting highly-polarised radio waves—suggesting the object had an extremely strong magnetic field.’
The scientists didn’t ever expect to detect one like this because they didn’t expect to see one so bright.
The researchers say that GLEAM-X J162759.5-523504.3 can convert magnetic energy to radio waves much more successfully than anything they have seen before.

A Billion Dollar Project Is Already Underway To Find More Outer Space Radio Signals

Image credit: MWA Collaboration and Curtin University

The scientists’ recent scientific discovery using the MWA telescope gives a lot of credibility and validation to the work of the SKA initiative.


MWA Director Professor Steven Tingay said ‘the telescope is a precursor instrument for the Square Kilometre Array.’

The SKA is a global initiative to build the world’s largest radio telescopes in Western Australia and South Africa. The SKA is a project that was initially forecast to cost €1.8 billion.  After many years of discussion, the SKA was founded on the 12th of March 2019 and is12th of March 2019 and now funded by 14 countries.

MWA Director Professor Steven Tingay expressed that the key to tracking down this object and studying it, is largely because of the way that researchers have been able to retrieve the information that the MWA has produced over the last ten years from the Pawsey Research Supercomputing Center. Tingay says “There are, no doubt, many more gems to be discovered by the MWA and the SKA in coming years.”


Feature image credit: Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin / ICRAR) and the GLEAM Team.