A rogue object the size of a planet 20 light years from Earth stunned astronomers with its incredibly strong magnetic field.
Scientists have found that the object’s magnetic field is more than 200 times stronger than that of Jupiter, which, in turn, is between 16 and 54 times stronger than that of Earth, according to NASA. How the object, which scientists call SIMP J01365663 + 0933473, can maintain such a strong magnetic field, as well as generate spectacular auroras, is still unclear.
“This particular object is exciting because studying its dynamo-magnetic mechanisms can give us new insight into how the same type of mechanisms can work on extrasolar planets – planets beyond our solar system.” said Melodie Kao, lead author of the study, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University. said in a statement from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory released on August 2. [The Strangest Alien Planets We Know in Pictures]
And it’s not just the magnetic mechanism that’s leaving scientists with questions right now – there are plenty of other mysteries about the object, which scientists first discovered in 2016.
The object is what scientists call a brown dwarf. Nicknamed “failed stars,” brown dwarfs are larger than planets, but not large enough to fuse hydrogen, like stars do. The line is still debated, but scientists tend to draw it at around 13 times the mass of Jupiter.
Originally, scientists believed that SIMP J01365663 + 0933473 was a gigantic, old brown dwarf. But further study has shown that it is rather young, at 200 million years old, and is only 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter. This research has also shown that the planet is alone, not orbiting a star.
“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,” Kao said in the communicated. “We believe that these mechanisms may work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in gas and terrestrial giant planets.”
The team is particularly excited about the new research because it relies in part on radio observations of the object’s auroras, which means radio telescopes may be able to identify new planets through their auroras.
The new research was described in an article published July 31 in the Astrophysical Journal.