Astronomers using NSF's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array have detected a "rogue" planetary-mass object with a surprisingly powerful magnetic field.
Originally detected in 2016 using the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico, the newly identified object was initially considered a brown dwarf. The discovery marks the first time radio observations and magnetic field measurements have been made of such a body and opens the door for future insights into exploring exoplanetary magnetic fields.
At 200 million years old and approximately 20 light-years from Earth, SIMP0136 has a surface temperature of about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (825 degrees Celsius). For comparison, the Sun has a surface temperature of 5,500 degrees Celsius or nearly 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Brown dwarfs, hard to categorise, are too huge to be classified as planets and not big enough to be classified as stars.
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. However, they agree that a dividing line can be achieved when an object is around the size of 13 Jupiter masses. This is at least how astronomers believed planets worked till they stumbled upon the first ever "rogue planet" that has been simply set adrift in the Milky Way.
A further study carried out previous year revealed that SIMP was part of a young group of stars. 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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The research team have discovered that the planet's magnetic field is incredibly strong - around 200 times stronger than Jupiter's - giving it a strong aurora. That field is also helping produce the auroras, which gave off the radio signal they detected.
Recently, exoplanets which may be able to support life in conditions similar to those found on Earth have also been recently spotted. Scientists theorise that one possibility is having a planet or moon interact with the dwarf's magnetic field.
The boundary often used to distinguish a massive gas giant plant from a brown dwarf is the "deuterium-burning limit" - the mass below whichdeuterium stops being fused in the objects core.
The rogue planet's strong aurora is being compared to the northern lights and aurora borealis seen on Earth.