Published: Tue, August 07, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Rogue planet with mystical aurora discovered drifting beyond our solar system

Rogue planet with mystical aurora discovered drifting beyond our solar system

In 2016, Dr. Kao and co-authors observed SIMP0136 with the Very Large Array (VLA) in order to gain new knowledge about magnetic fields and the mechanisms by which some of the coolest brown dwarfs can produce strong radio emission.

The rogue planet is 20 light-years from Earth, and it could provide scientists "a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star", explains researcher Gregg Hallinan.

Artist's conception of SIMP J01365663 0933473, an object with 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter, but a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's.

Scientists have found evidence of the first ever planetary-mass object beyond our solar system.

Astronomers have detected a possible "rogue" planetary-mass object with a surprisingly powerful magnetic field travelling through space unaccompanied by any parent star.

Brown dwarfs, objects that are two massive be considered planets but not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion in their cores, were first predicted in the 1960s and detected for the first time in 1995. But further study showed that it is instead relatively young, at 200 million years old, and is only 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter. Once more data was obtained, the idea that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was a brown dwarf was scrapped.


The team is particularly excited by the new research because it relies in part on radio observations of the object's auroras - which means that radio telescopes may be able to identify new planets by their auroras. However, solitary brown dwarfs do not have a solar wind from a nearby star to interact with.

Lead researcher Melodie Kao from Caltech said in a statement. Since the mass of a Brown dwarf is hard to accurately calculate, at the time, the object found was thought to be an old, massive brown dwarf. It is located 20 light-years from Earth and has a surface temperature of about 825 degrees Celsius. It also has a surface temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to minus 234 degrees Fahrenheit for Jupiter and 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit for the Sun.

The exact difference between a large gas planet and a brown dwarf is a bone of contention for scientists, with debate raging over what defines one or the other.

Scientists using a radio-telescope array have spotted a very big roaming cosmic body with an abnormally strong magnetic field.

"This particular object is exciting because studying its magnetic dynamo mechanisms can give us new insights on how the same type of mechanisms can operate in extrasolar planets - planets beyond our solar system", added Kao. It is a component of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

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