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Astronomers stumped by strange Milky Way radio signals, but 'it's not aliens'

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E.T. phoning home? Not so fast.

A team of astronomers has detected strange radio waves coming from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. However, the experts don't think it's aliens.

The source of the signal was found by a team using the CSIRO radio telescope in Western Australia. Their results were published Tuesday in the Astrophysical Journal.

What it is? Not as easy to pin down after the team ruled out a number of possibilities, including a rapidly spinning dead star called a pulsar.

The Milky Way Galaxy as seen from the rim of Bryce Canyon's rocky rim in southern Utah. (Ron Harris/AP)

"The strangest property of this new signal is that it is has a very high polarisation," Ziteng Wang, the lead author of the study said. "This means its light oscillates in only one direction, but that direction rotates with time."

"The brightness of the object also varies dramatically, by a factor of 100, and the signal switches on and off apparently at random," Wang added. "We've never seen anything like it."

Tara Murphy, a professor at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and the School of Physics, called the signal "unique" because it faded away before reappearing.

"This behavior was extraordinary," she said.

"It's not aliens," she told Australian Broadcaster ABC News. "We don't know what it is, but we do know it's from something natural, some astronomical object."

However, Murphy also said it was a rare object and didn't fit any existing models.

In the meantime, those with access to powerful telescopes can check it out themselves. The newest signal has been named after its coordinates in the night sky: ASKAP J173608.2-321635.

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