Huge rogue planet found lurking outside our solar system

Researchers have discovered a “rogue” planet outside of our solar system using the Very Large Array (VLA), the first time such a discovery has been made using a radio telescope. The planet is called rogue because of its lack of a mother star, having the distinction of being something between a planet and a brown dwarf, which is an object that has too much mass to be called a planet.

The newly discovered object, called SIMP J01365663 + 0933473, is estimated to have a mass about 12.7 times that of Jupiter and a magnetic field more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s own magnetic field. Astronomers say the rogue planet is located 20 light years from Earth and is around 200 million years old – which, in the grand scheme of things, is considered young for a planet.

While not as hot as our Sun, this newly discovered object is quite hot at around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The rogue body is almost large enough to be considered a giant gas planet, and it offers researchers the opportunity to study these massive objects, thereby shedding light on their magnetic realities.

Of particular note is the presence of strong auroras, which usually involve the interaction of a planet’s magnetic field with the solar wind. Researchers don’t know how dwarf brown aurorae occur – ‘rogue’ planets like these don’t have solar wind from a nearby star for the magnetic field to interact with. However, a nearby moon or another orbiting planet may be the answer.

“This 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,” said Melodie Kao, responsible for the study. SIMP J01365663 + 0933473 was first detected in 2016.

THE SOURCE: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Arline J. Mercier