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Mysterious very big rogue planet spotted lurking outside our solar system

07 August 2018

An unaccompanied brown dwarf like SIMP JO1365663+0933473, the object detected by the VLA, does not have a companion star and thus is not flying through a solar wind. It doesn't appear to orbit a parent star, however, and is only 20 light-years away from Earth.

Artist's conception of SIMP01365, an object with 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter, but a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's.

Observations from the VLA provided both the first radio detection and the first measurement of the magnetic field of a possible planetary mass object beyond our Solar System.

Of particular note is the presence of strong auroras, which typically involve a planet's magnetic field interacting with solar wind.

"This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or "failed star", and is giving us some surprises", Dr Melodie Kao and astronomer at Arizona State University told The Independent. The enigmatic celestial body was found to have a planetary mass and weigh 12.7 times more than Jupiter, despite having a radius only 1.22 times bigger than that of the gas giant. Once more data was obtained, the idea that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was a brown dwarf was scrapped.

"They [the surprises] can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets". Brown dwarf masses are notoriously hard to measure, and at the time, the object was thought to be an old and much more massive brown dwarf. The temperature on that planet is about 825 degrees Celsius, which makes it a lot cooler than out Sun. They are intermediate objects with mass ranging between 13 and 80 Jupiter masses.

Kao's team used a radio astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico called - fittingly - the "Very Large Array" (VLA) to pick up its magnetic activity and study it.

Yet, all these unusual features still can't explain how the exoplanet got its incredibly strong magnetic field - a mystery that astronomers are still trying to crack.

A few decades ago, scientists believed that brown dwarf stars don't have magnetic fields. The rogue body is almost large enough to be considered a gas giant planet and it offers researchers the opportunity to study these massive objects, shedding light on their magnetic realities.

Such a strong magnetic field '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, ' said Gregg Hallinan, of Caltech.

The difference between what constitutes gas giants and brown dwarfs is a matter of serious debate among astronomers, says NRAO. They are reporting their findings in the Astrophysical Journal.

Mysterious very big rogue planet spotted lurking outside our solar system