Huge rogue 'planet' has magnetic field scientists can't explain

07 August, 2018, 11:39 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Mysterious gigantic rogue planet spotted lurking outside our solar system

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. The object, about a dozen times more massive than Jupiter, is a surprisingly strong magnetic powerhouse and a "rogue", traveling through space unaccompanied by any parent star.

The planet is only around 20 light years from Earth, but it's not really doing much besides relaxing in the vastness of space. A light year is equal to about 6 trillion miles.

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. The team's analysis showed the planet's magnetic field is around 200 times stronger than Jupiter's, and this could help explain why it also has a strong aurora.

"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 - planets beyond our solar system", lead study author Melodie Kao, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University, said in a statement from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory published August 2.

This planet was first found in 2016, but scientists classified it as being a brown dwarf.

The unusual object sits in a grey area between a star and a planet, and was originally classed as a "brown dwarf" - a failed star.

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Once more data was obtained, the idea that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was a brown dwarf was scrapped. Whether it is a massive exoplanet or a brown dwarf is not yet clear.

More baffling still is its mass and powerful magnetic field that's over 200 times stronger than Jupiter's. Its temperature is also far cooler than the sun, at 825 degrees Celsius.

The exact difference between a large gas planet and a brown dwarf is a bone of contention for scientists, with debate raging over what defines one or the other.

"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.

SIMP0136 was originally discovered in 2006 by another team of researchers, led by University of Montréal astronomer Dr. Étienne Artigau.

Caltech's Gregg Hallinan said that researching SIMP "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". It is a component of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

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