Scientists are working to explain the presence of a mysterious large object floating outside the solar system that may be a rogue planet. The "rogue", as it's referred to by researchers, is producing an unexplained glowing aurora and travels through space alone, without a parent star.
The massive planet is 20 light years away from Earth. Although they're not planets, brown dwarfs are not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion of ordinary hydrogen to helium - and therefore, are not technically stars either. It is 12 times bigger than Jupiter and has a very odd feature: it does not orbit any star.
"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", said [Arizona State University's Melodie] Kao. It also has a surface temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to minus 234 degrees Fahrenheit for Jupiter and 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit for the Sun. According to the astrophysicists, it would be a free object of planetary mass, an object possessing the mass of a planet but which is not gravitationally attached to any star or brown dwarf.
Artist's conception of SIMP J01365663 0933473, an object with 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter, but a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's. Astronomers found it using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico.
In addition to providing the first radio detection of the object's magnetic field, VLA also provided the field's first measurement.
Researchers believe the rogue planet is quite young, estimating its age at around 200 million years. In 2001, VLA uncovered the first signs of radio flaring in a brown dwarf leading to further observations that confirmed that some of these bodies did indeed have strong auroras. The auroras on Earth are caused by our planet's magnetic field interacting with the solar wind.
The initial contact happened in 2016, when astronomers believed that the planetary mass they recently discovered was a brown dwarf star.
This rogue planet, and some brown dwarves are known to have auroras of their own despite lacking solar winds. Once more data was obtained, the idea that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was a brown dwarf was scrapped.