Rogue planet with mystical aurora discovered drifting beyond our solar system

08 Août, 2018, 14:38 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Brown dwarf or massive exoplanet detected with powerful magnetic field

Finding a solitary planet - called a "rogue" planet - is more hard, but researchers just managed to spot one using a radio telescope, and it's a real weirdo. The object is now about 20 light-years from Earth and is also believed to have a moon. Astronomers found it using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico.

They were able to determine its mass and determine that the object could be a free-floating planet.

Despite its weight, the newly discovered planet has a radius only 1.2 times that of Jupiter, the study said.

A brown dwarf is an object too large to be a planet, but isn't big enough to sustain the nuclear fusion of hydrogen in its core that is typical of stars.

Originally discovered in 2016, it was only recently that it was identified as a planetary-mass object, having originally been classified as a brown dwarf. It's an absolutely massive alien world that is almost big enough to be classified as a brown dwarf.

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What's really special about that planet with the big long name is that it has a magnetic field 200 times stronger than even the mighty Jupiter.

The planet, which is 12 times as large as Jupiter, sits around 20 light years away from Earth. For comparison, the Sun has a surface temperature of 5,500 degrees Celsius or nearly 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This fits with the object being between a planet and a brown dwarf and could provide valuable information about both groups.

But the abnormally high magnetic field makes it even more exciting. Kao and colleagues have found evidence of auroras on SIMP J01365663+0933473. 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. One theory is that auroras happen when a planet or moon interacts with the brown dwarf's magnetic field.

Researchers believe the rogue planet is quite young, estimating its age at around 200 million years. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995, although they were first theorized in the 1960s.

This is the first radio-telescope detection and first measurement of the magnetic field of such an object beyond our solar system. "We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets", Kao said.

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