Astronomers have detected a possible "rogue" planetary-mass object with a surprisingly powerful magnetic field travelling through space unaccompanied by any parent star. Recently astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array to probe the planet's radio emissions determined the object to be a rogue planet. "This. object is exciting because studying its magnetic dynamo mechanisms can give us new insights on how the same type of mechanisms can operate in planets beyond our solar system", Kao said.
The planet, which is 12 times as large as Jupiter, sits around 20 light years away from Earth.
The temperature on its surface is more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The surprising find is peculiar because it could be a planet or a brown dwarf. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995, although they were first theorized in the 1960s. However, they agree that a dividing line can be achieved when an object is around the size of 13 Jupiter masses.
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They were able to determine its mass and determine that the object could be a free-floating planet.
The Caltech team that originally detected its radio emission in 2016 had observed it again in a new study at even higher radio frequencies and confirmed that its magnetic field was even stronger than what they had measured the first time. The mysterious auroras of the planet, or rather their radio signature, is what allowed the scientists to identify the planet, but for now it is still not known how these auroras are formed.
How the sunless planet has such strong auroras, similar to those seen in our own Solar System's giant planets, remains a mystery.
In our solar system the planets orbit the Sun but this enormous planet is going solo. "We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets", Kao said.
Such a strong magnetic field "presents huge challenges to our understanding of the dynamo mechanism that produces the magnetic fields in brown dwarfs and exoplanets and helps drive the auroras we see", adds Gregg Hallinan, of Caltech, who also worked on the study.