Highlights of history
Massive object with strong magnetic field detected beyond our solar system
It has glowing aurora and drifts by itself in space
A strange 200 million year old object with the mass of a planet has been discovered 20 light years from Earth, outside of our solar system. The “thug,” as the researchers call it, produces an unexplained glowing aurora and travels through space on its own, without a parent star.
The object, named SIMP J01365663 + 0933473, has 12.7 times the mass of the gas giant Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. It also has a strong magnetic field that is over 200 times stronger than that of Jupiter.
The temperature on its surface is above 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it looks hot, it is quite cool compared to the sun’s surface temperature of about 9,932 degrees Fahrenheit.
So what exactly is this rogue object?
A study published this month in the Astrophysical Journal supplement series includes details on the detection.
This is the first detection by radio telescope and the first measurement of the magnetic field of such an object beyond our solar system. Astronomers found it using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array Radio Astronomical Observatory in New Mexico.
The surprising discovery is special because it could be a planet or a brown dwarf.
Brown dwarfs are often considered too massive to be planets, but they are not massive enough to support the nuclear fusion process of hydrogen at their core, which powers the stars. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995, although it was first theorized in the 1960s.
âThis object is right on the border between a planet and a brown dwarf, or ‘failing star’, and has some surprises in store for us that can potentially help us understand the magnetic processes on stars and planets,â said Melodie Kao, study author and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University, in a statement.
The difference between a gas giant and a brown dwarf has been the subject of debate among astronomers. However, they agree that a dividing line can be obtained when an object is about the size of 13 Jupiter masses.
When this object was discovered in 2016 along with four brown dwarfs, scientists believed it to be older and more massive. Last year, an independent team of scientists discovered that she was actually part of a group of younger, less massive stars.
They were able to determine its mass and determine that the object could be a free-floating planet.
Kao heard the results when she examined the latest data from the Radio Astronomy Observatory, which helped researchers determine the strong magnetic field. This field also helps produce the auroras, which emitted the radio signal they detected. Auroras are similar to those on Earth that occur when our magnetic field interacts with the solar wind.
Brown dwarfs can also produce strong auroras, but the cause behind them is unclear as they lack solar wind from nearby stars. One theory is that auroras occur when a planet or moon interacts with the brown dwarf’s magnetic field.
“[This presents] huge challenges for our understanding of the dynamo mechanism that produces magnetic fields in brown dwarfs and exoplanets and helps drive the auroras we see, âsaid Gregg Hallinan, study co-author and assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Astronomy, in a statement. âDetecting SIMP J01365663 + 0933473 with the VLA via its auroral radio broadcast also means that we might have a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive thugs that don’t orbit a parent star. ”
Kao added, âWe believe these mechanisms may work not only in brown dwarfs, but also on gas and terrestrial giant planets. ”