Giant Rogue Planet Wandering Outside Our Solar System Has Been Discovered

Artist's conception of SIMP J01365663+0933473 an object with 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter

Artist's conception of SIMP J01365663+0933473 an object with 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter

"This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or 'failed star, ' and is giving us some surprises", said Melodie Kao, who led a recent study while a graduate student at Caltech.

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.

Although the planet is roaming the galaxy by itself, without a companion star to orbit, its surface is quite hot judging by planetary standards. But since then, as our technology progressed, astronomers found that these stars also exhibit signs of magnetic activity, including the formation of powerful auroras - which on Earth are created by solar wind particles interacting with the planet's magnetic field.

This Hubble telescope snapshot shows auroras on Jupiter
This Hubble telescope snapshot shows auroras on Jupiter

Initially believed to be a brown dwarf star, the peculiar celestial object, boasting a suite of unusual physical traits, turned out to be a planet after all.

Furthermore, the huge exoplanet - which is slightly bigger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system - has an extremely powerful magnetic field, more than 200 times stronger than that of our gas giant.

The object, which has been named SIMP J01365663+0933473, was first detected in 2016, but was thought to be a brown dwarf. Whether it is a massive exoplanet or a brown dwarf is not yet clear.

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Last year, an independent team of scientists discovered that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was part of a very young group of stars.

Despite its weight, the newly discovered planet has a radius only 1.2 times that of Jupiter, the study said.

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.

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"When it was announced that SIMP J01365663+0933473 had a mass near the deuterium-burning limit, I had just finished analyzing its newest VLA data", said Kao.

The VLA observations provided both the first radio detection and the first measurement of the magnetic field of a possible planetary mass object beyond our Solar System.

The new discovery, made with the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array telescopes in New Mexico, marks the first radio observations of a planetary-mass object beyond our solar system.

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"We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets". They are reporting their findings in the Astrophysical Journal.

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