Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Bizarre, rogue planet boasts impressive magnetic aurora

Bizarre, rogue planet boasts impressive magnetic aurora

Scientists using a telescope and the VLA recorded a planetary mass object outside our Solar system.

A new planet with a large aurora has been discovered drifting alone through space. They say the new world is 200 million years old and 20 light-years from Earth. The planet is skirting the boundaries of our solar system - just 20 light years from Earth - and may prove to be an invaluable source of astronomic knowledge. "It probably has its share of surprises that can help us understand the magnetic processes taking place on countless stars and planets", said astrophysicist Melodie Kao. Brown dwarfs, hard to categorise, are too huge to be classified as planets and not big enough to be classified as stars. One rule of thumb in drawing the distinction is the mass below which fusion of deuterium is not possible - about 13 Jupiter masses.

Apparently, outside our solar system astronomers came up across a giant planet, 12 times bigger than Jupiter.

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The rogue plant also features a surface temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to negative 234 degrees Fahrenheit on Jupiter and 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit on the sun.

Scientists have yet to determine how these solitary objects could sustain auroras but have stipulated they could be a result on an orbiting planet or moon interacting with the brown dwarf's magnetic field.

The odd object was discovered in 2016 and originally believed to be a very old brown dwarf. And according to a recently published study in The Astrophysical Journal, this unusual, nomadic world has an incredibly powerful magnetic field that is some 4 million times stronger than Earth's. It also has a strong magnetic field that is more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter's.

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Originally detected in 2016 using the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico, the newly identified object was initially considered a brown dwarf.

The planet is believed to have scorching surface temperatures of around 825C. "We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets", Kao said.

Of particular note is the presence of strong auroras, which typically involve a planet's magnetic field interacting with solar wind.

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Astronomer Gregg Hallinan of Caltech noted that the research "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".

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