Massive rogue planet found lurking outside our solar system

Jan Cross
August 8, 2018

The new object is wandering freely through the galaxy, untethered by an orbit to any star.

"This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or 'failed star, ' and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets", said Melodie Kao, from the Arizona State University who led this study.

The new planet is 12 times the size of Jupiter which has a radius of more than 69,000 kilometres. Brown dwarf planets are sometimes called "failed stars" because they're almost large enough for fusion to begin taking place in their core, but that's not even the most unique thing about this particular planet. However, it is thought that they fuse deuterium, and if their mass is sufficiently large, lithium.

The newly discovered planet was originally detected in 2016 and was considered to be a brown dwarf. Whether it is a massive exoplanet or a brown dwarf is not yet clear. Hoverer, the new object generates a magnetic field 200 times a powerful as Jupiter's.

The massive planet is 20 light years away from Earth.

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The temperature on its surface is more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. This fits with the object being between a planet and a brown dwarf and could provide valuable information about both groups. Kao and colleagues have found evidence of auroras on SIMP J01365663+0933473.

On Earth, auroras are generated by interactions between its magnetic field and solar winds. However, a nearby moon or another orbiting planet may be the answer.

Researchers believe the rogue planet is quite young, estimating its age at around 200 million years. The first ever sighting of a Brown Dwarf happened as late as 1995. This massive rogue planet does not seem to be attached to any star and it is the first such object to be discovered so far using a radio telescope. "We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets".

"[This 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, study co-author and assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Astronomy, in a statement.

The new discovery can make boffins believe that they may have a novel way of detecting and finding exoplanets, including rogue ones that are hard to identify since they are not orbiting a parent star like the planets do in our solar system.

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