Astronomical Anomalies: The Most Unusual Objects Found in Deep Space

Space is a boundless expanse of unexplained phenomena and unusual objects, so we’ve put together a rundown of the greatest space oddities for the starry-eyed enthusiasts among us.

Scientists and astronomers are constantly exploring outer space to discover what lies within the great abyss and oftentimes detail their findings in studies and journals. Some entries are a little more puzzling than others, proving that we should always expect the unexpected when it comes to our ever-evolving universe.

We’ve catalogued some of the strangest and most significant astronomical anomalies to have been reported over the years. So prepare to be mystified and click through our slideshow or scroll through the round-up below to find out everything we know about these baffling happenings and outlandish objects in outer space.

Astronomical Anomalies: The Most Unusual Objects Found in Deep Space

Image credit: Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker/ICRAR/Curtin and the GLEAM Team

Image credit: Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker/ICRAR/Curtin and the GLEAM Team

Scientists once discovered a mysterious celestial object that was pulsating in space, blasting out radio signals approximately 4000 light-years (almost 24 quadrillion miles) away from Earth. The object released giant bursts of energy, causing it to brighten for roughly 30 – 60 seconds once every 18 minutes, acting like a lighthouse in the vast ocean of the cosmos.

These findings were documented in the journal Nature and prompted some astronomers to speculate about the source of the radio waves, given that it was unlike anything that has ever been seen in space before. Several people suggested that the object might be a neutron star or a white dwarf star with a very powerful magnetic field, but that is yet to be proven.

Image credit: European Southern Observatory/Flickr

Image credit: European Southern Observatory/Flickr

A massive cigar-shaped object known as Oumuamua made headlines in 2017 when it whipped past Earth at an unusually high speed (196,000 mph, or 87.3 kps). NASA claimed that it was the first-ever object in our solar system that was “known to have originated elsewhere,” but they were less certain about which star system it may have traveled from.

Harvard professor Avi Loeb believed that the interstellar object derived from some kind of debris from advanced alien technology many light-years away, while other scientists have suggested that the object is probably a piece of Pluto-like planet that was knocked off its surface about half a billion years ago and found its way into our solar system.

Image credit: Torrance Hodgson, ICRAR/Curtin University

Image credit: Torrance Hodgson, ICRAR/Curtin University

Researchers previously spotted a jellyfish-shaped object floating around in a distant galaxy cluster 340 million light-years from Earth. The structure, shaped with a head and tentacles, was found to be emitting an ultra-low radio frequency and was dubbed the “USS Jellyfish” as a reference to its “ultra-steep spectrum,” per ScienceNews.

The team behind the paper, published in The Astrophysical Journal, suggested the celestial sea creature was formed from a mixture of sizzling hot gas and electrons generated from black hole-ejected material. That material ended up whirling around magnetic fields, giving off radio waves that would reaccelerate when gas passed through a galaxy cluster.

Image credit: Claus Lunau/FOCI/Bonnier Publications/Science Source

Image credit: Claus Lunau/FOCI/Bonnier Publications/Science Source

Astronomers discovered a space object that had an orbit around the sun but also stretched into the spherical layer of icy objects proposed to surround the sun, otherwise known as the Oort cloud. According to Phys.org, it could actually be the largest Oort cloud object ever discovered, with a suspected diameter of 100-370 km, making it larger than a comet.

The size of the Oort cloud orbiter is not the only matter of interest, as Science.org points out that the object’s chaotic path might shed light on the early formation of our solar system. It’s possible that large planets traveled through space in a similar manner to this object, hurling asteroids outward and casting icy bodies inward, which might explain how water reached our planet.

Image credit: SARAO

Image credit: SARAO

A mysterious, hazy, circular object appeared in space in 2019. It was photographed and labeled “WTF?” as scientists were puzzled by its existence. A few days later, a second smoky ball was found and astronomers then realized that it wasn’t an isolated case. According to an article in The Conversation, there could actually be as many as 1,000 of these objects in the sky.

Scientists have named them ORCs, which stands for “odd radio circles,” though they still haven’t established the source of these perplexing phenomena. Some have suggested the ORCs might be connected to wormholes while others have wondered whether they’re the result of an explosion in a distant galaxy or a collision between a neutron star and a black hole.

Image credit: <strong>NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI</strong>” src=”https://assets-prd.ignimgs.com/2022/08/18/stephans-quintet-of-galaxies-1660818516059.jpeg?width=1280&fit=bounds&height=720&quality=20&dpr=0.05″ class=”jsx-2920405963 progressive-image article-image article-image-full-size jsx-294430442 rounded loading”/></p>
<p class=Image credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, was found by French astronomer Édouard Stephan in 1877. He documented the discovery in this journal entry from the Royal Astronomical Society, which later became the foundation for many more studies of the enormous space mosaic, located about 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus.

NASA used the James Webb Space Telescope to observe the cosmic object, which is notable for being the first compact galaxy group ever discovered. An image of the Quintet released from Webb’s science operations shows that it’s made up of sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and sweeping trails of stardust created by gravitational interactions within the galaxies.

Image credit: ESA

Image credit: ESA

Kip Thorne and Anna Żytkow hypothesized about hybrid stars in 1975, putting the idea of ​​a Russian-nesting-doll-type star on the interstellar map. Years later, astronomers started to identify potential TZOs (Thorne-Żytkow objects), with the first candidate being pulled out from a dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way 200-000 light-years from Earth.

As reported by Astronomy, Emily Levesque and her team of researchers spotted the strange stellar structure in 2014 and noted that it had “excess amounts of lithium, calcium, and other elements” similar to the “unique nuclear reactions” that would occur inside a TZO aka a red giant star that contains a neutron star at its core, though they felt additional work needed to be done for more conclusive results.

If this article proves anything, it’s that you might want to learn more about space before choosing to explore it for yourself. After all, there are over 5,000 planets outside our solar system and there are a lot of weird and wonderful ones. There are also heaps of noteworthy stars to write home about, including one named after a Tolkien character and another that is the farthest star ever detected, so watch this space.

Adele Ankers-Range is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow her on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.