Scientists baffled by ‘rogue planet’ outside the solar system

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. This object is 20 light-years from Earth. Credit Caltech  Chuck Carter NRAO  AUI  NSF

The curious thing about this planet is not just its vast size but also the fact it doesn't appear to orbit any star.

An unusual new planet has been discovered drifting alone through space, 20 light years away from Earth.

Brown dwarfs are objects which are much larger than planets yet unable to sustain nuclear fusion of hydrogen in their cores, hence the name failed stars.

It's not attached to any star and is 12 times the size of Jupiter, which has a radius of more than 69,000 kilometres.

"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", Dr. Kao said. For comparison, the Sun has a surface temperature of 5,500 degrees Celsius or nearly 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

In fact, scientists are still debating the difference between giant planets and brown dwarfs because of the only distinction they can categorize them based on is size.

This is the first planetary mass object detected with a radio telescope. The newly discovered object, called SIMP J01365663+0933473, has been found to have a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's.

There are many mysterious things about the rogue planet, which was discovered using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico. It also features a magnetic field over 200 times stronger than the gas giant's.

This finding could help to better understand the magnetic processes of stars and planets, Kao believes.

At the same time, the team from Caltech, which originally registered the radio emission in 2016, I watched it again during the new study, at much higher RF frequencies, and confirmed that the magnetic field of the object was even stronger than originally thought. Some brown dwarfs have powerful auroras like those seen around the poles of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn caused by the interactions of a planet's magnetic field and the electrically charged solar wind. However, when another team looked at the brown dwarf data they realised one of the objects, dubbed SIMP J01365663+0933473, was far younger than the others. Researchers aren't sure how brown dwarf auroras happen - "rogue" planets like these lack a nearby star's solar wind for the magnetic field to interact with.

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