Friday, 19 October, 2018

Scientists discover "rogue planet" outside solar system

Brown dwarf or massive exoplanet detected with powerful magnetic field Gigantic Rogue Planet Found Lurking Outside Our Solar System
Sandy Nunez | 08 August, 2018, 14:38

The object, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, has 12.7 times the mass of the gas giant Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Astronomers say the rogue planet is located 20 light-years from Earth and is about 200 million years old - which, in the grand scheme of things, is considered young for a planet.

The object is about 20 light years away from Earth, farther than the Alpha Centauri star system that is about 4 light years away.

What's really special about that planet with the big long name is that it has a magnetic field 200 times stronger than even the mighty Jupiter. Scientists aren't exactly sure how the auroras form in brown dwarfs, but they do have some theories.

Although the discovery of a rogue planet is rare, with only a few identified to date, scientists believe there could be many more in the universe waiting to be discovered. The surface of SIMP is roughly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 Celsius), sitting "right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or 'failed star, '" according to Kao.

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The newly discovered planet was originally detected in 2016 and was considered to be a brown dwarf. New analysis has proved that it is in fact a proper planet with an extraordinarily powerful magnetic field. The auroras are similar to those on Earth that happen when our magnetic field interacts with solar wind. "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. However, a nearby moon or another orbiting planet may be the answer. Since the mass of a Brown dwarf is hard to accurately calculate, at the time, the object found was thought to be an old, massive brown dwarf. One rule of thumb in drawing the distinction is the mass below which fusion of deuterium is not possible - about 13 Jupiter masses.

The unusually 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", said Caltech's Gregg Hallinan.

The new discovery can make boffins believe that they may have a novel way of detecting and finding exoplanets, including rogue ones that are hard to identify since they are not orbiting a parent star like the planets do in our solar system.