Two recent discoveries, namely PSR J0901−4046 and GLEAM-X J162759.5−523504.3 (hereafter GLEAM-X J1627), have corroborated an extant population of radio-loud periodic sources with long periods (76 and 1091 s, respectively) whose emission can hardly be explained by rotation losses. We argue that GLEAM-X J1627 is a highly magnetized object consistent with a magnetar (an ultra-long period magnetar, ULPM), and demonstrate it is unlikely to be either a magnetically or a rotationally powered white dwarf. By studying these sources together with previously detected objects, we find there are at least a handful of promising candidates for Galactic ULPMs. The detections of these objects imply a substantial number, N ≳ 13 000 and N ≳ 500 for PSR J0901−4046 like and GLEAM-X J1627 like objects, respectively, within our Galaxy. These source densities, as well as cooling age limits from non-detection of thermal X-rays, Galactic offsets, timing stability and dipole spin-down limits, all imply the ULPM candidates are substantially older than confirmed Galactic magnetars and that their formation channel is a common one. Their existence implies widespread survival of magnetar-like fields for several Myr, distinct from the inferred behaviour in confirmed Galactic magnetars. ULPMs may also constitute a second class of FRB progenitors which could naturally exhibit very long periodic activity windows. Finally, we show that existing radio campaigns are biased against detecting objects like these and discuss strategies for future radio and X-ray surveys to identify more such objects. We estimate that O(100) more such objects should be detected with SKA-MID and DSA-2000.
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© 2023 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.