We have been finding some interesting things in space over the past few years, but this is something we would not have expected. A study on a ‘rogue’ planet has been released and the things surrounding it are quite peculiar.
This rogue planet has a very interesting and currently unexplainable glow to it. It hides just beyond our solar system at the moment and is easily twelve times bigger than Jupiter. While we don’t know much about currently, we hope to learn more very soon. This planet is the first object of its kind to be spotted using a radio telescope and many are quite shocked at its presence. According to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, it is a surprisingly strong magnetic powerhouse and not accompanied by any kind of parent star.
“This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or a ‘failed star,’ and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets.” Said Melodie Kao, who led this study while a graduate student at Caltech and is now a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University.
Brown dwarfs are objects too massive to be considered planets, yet not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion of hydrogen in their cores — the process that powers stars. Theorists suggested in the 1960s that such objects would exist, but the first one was not discovered until 1995. They originally were thought to not emit radio waves, but in 2001 a VLA discovery of radio flaring in one revealed strong magnetic activity.
Subsequent observations showed that some brown dwarfs have strong auroras, similar to those seen in our own Solar System’s giant planets. The auroras seen on Earth are caused by our planet’s magnetic field interacting with the solar wind. However, solitary brown dwarfs do not have a solar wind from a nearby star to interact with. How the auroras are caused in brown dwarfs is unclear, but the scientists think one possibility is an orbiting planet or moon interacting with the brown dwarf’s magnetic field, such as what happens between Jupiter and its moon Io.
The strange object in the latest study, called SIMP J01365663+0933473, has a magnetic field more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s. The object was originally detected in 2016 as one of five brown dwarfs the scientists studied with the VLA to gain new knowledge about magnetic fields and the mechanisms by which some of the coolest such objects can produce strong radio emission. Brown dwarf masses are notoriously difficult to measure, and at the time, the object was thought to be an old and much more massive brown dwarf.
Last year, an independent team of scientists discovered that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was part of a very young group of stars. Its young age meant that it was in fact so much less massive that it could be a free-floating planet — only 12.7 times more massive than Jupiter, with a radius 1.22 times that of Jupiter. At 200 million years old and 20 light-years from Earth, the object has a surface temperature of about 825 degrees Celsius or more than 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, the Sun’s surface temperature is about 5,500 degrees Celsius.
They went on to mention that the manner in which this one was found could also be a new way of detecting exoplanets in the future. Only time will tell if we do truly learn more about this planet or not but I sure hope we do. What do you think about all of this?
In the past, we have found other rogue planets as well. Space truly is full of wonders.
(Image Credit: Caltech/Chuck Carter; NRAO/AUI/NSF)