Scientists recently discovered a mysterious object in outer space that, for a time, was sending out regular bursts of energy in a way that researchers hadn't previously observed.
According to an article published in Nature on Wednesday, scientists observed the mysterious object while mapping radio frequencies in deep space in early 2018.
They noticed the object was emitting a low-frequency radio signal about every 18 minutes for several months. The bursts of energy would last anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. When visible, the bursts were among the brightest sources of radio waves viewable from Earth, according to CNN.
Vice reports that the energy pulses were observed between January and March of 2018 but haven't been seen since.
Officials aren't sure what the object was, though they have some theories. Some suspect that it could be the remnants of a collapsed star or a "white dwarf" — a small, dense star that's typically about the size of a planet.
Others believe the object was a "magnetar" — a neuron star with a very strong magnetic field. However, CNN reports that typical magnetars flare-up over the span of seconds, and an 18-minute interval for flares would be highly unusual.
Though the object was thousands of light-years away, scientists were still amazed by the mysterious object's close proximity to Earth.
"That was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there's nothing known in the sky that does that. And it's really quite close to us — about 4,000 light-years away. It's in our galactic backyard," Natasha Hurley-Walker, one of the study's authors, said in a statement to CNN.