Gigantic Rogue Planet Found Lurking Outside Our Solar System

Mindy Sparks
August 8, 2018

"This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or 'failed star, ' and is giving us some surprises", said Melodie Kao, who led a recent study while a graduate student at Caltech.

Originally detected in 2016 using the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico, the newly identified object was initially considered a brown dwarf.

It's believed that the magnetic dynamo mechanisms of this particular space object will help scientists discover more planets beyond our solar system using auroral radio emissions. Additionally, new data from the Very Large Array (VLA), one of the most advanced radio telescope arrays on Earth, suggests that the object has a temperature of about 825 degrees Celsius or more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Its magnetic field is 200 times that of Jupiter.

According to a recent study in The Astrophysical Journal, the rogue planet has a magnetic field nearly 4 million times stronger than Earth's and a mass 12.7 times the size of Jupiter. The first ever sighting of a Brown Dwarf happened as late as 1995. However, they agree that a dividing line can be achieved when an object is around the size of 13 Jupiter masses. Last year, an independent team of scientists discovered that it was actually part of a young group of stars and less massive. Being this young meant that it could, in fact, be a free-floating planet.

Simultaneously, Dr. Kao's team observed SIMP0136 in a new study at even higher radio frequencies and confirmed that its magnetic field was even stronger than first measured - more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter's.

Twenty light-years away, a massive, magnetic exoplanet without a sun is generating brilliant auroras that would put Earth's northern lights to shame.

The auroras on our planet are caused by its magnetic field interacting with the solar wind (the continuous flow of charged particles from the sun's upper atmosphere, known as the corona, that permeates the solar system).

The difference between what constitutes gas giants and brown dwarfs is a matter of serious debate among astronomers, says NRAO. However, a nearby moon or another orbiting planet may be the answer.

Caltech's Gregg Hallinan said that researching SIMP "presents huge challenges to our understanding of the dynamo mechanism that produces the magnetic fields in brown dwarfs and exoplanets and helps drive the auroras we see".

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