Discovery: Huge glowing 'rogue' planet drifting through space


The Very Large Array (VLA) is a collection of 27 radio antennas located at the NRAO site in Socorro, New Mexico.

In the first radio-telescope detection of a planetary-mass object beyond our solar system, astronomers have found the unusual celestial body has 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter.

Artist's conception of SIMP01365, an object with 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter, but a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's.

"This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or 'failed star, ' and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets", study lead astronomer Melodie Kao said. Brown dwarf planets are sometimes called "failed stars" because they're almost large enough for fusion to begin taking place in their core, but that's not even the most unique thing about this particular planet. It appears to be traveling through space alone.

They were also initially thought not to give off any radio waves, but in 2001, they were discovered to be absolutely teeming with magnetic activity.

Some experts have concluded it is therefore not a brown dwarf, but a free-floating planet.

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Here on Earth, auroras are generated by solar winds, which interact with charged particles in our ionosphere. Such a strong magnetic field could improve our understanding of dynamo mechanism.

On Earth, auroras are generated by interactions between its magnetic field and solar winds.

Another team looking at the brown dwarf data, discovered an object called SIMP J01365663+0933473, to be far younger than the others.

The rogue planet is 20 light-years from Earth, and it could provide scientists "a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star", explains researcher Gregg Hallinan. Astronomers agree that the difference can be drawn as the line below which deuterium fusion is no more possible, known as the "deuterium-burning limit", it stands at around 13 Jupiter masses.

But its magnetic field is something worth a closer look. It also has a magnetic field about 200 times as strong as our infamously spotted neighbor's, driving auroras much like our own, except with a lack of a sun, SIMP's auroras are likely caused by magnetic play with one of its own moons.

The team is particularly excited by the new research because it relies in part on radio observations of the object's auroras - which means that radio telescopes may be able to identify new planets by their auroras. "We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets", Kao said.