Brown dwarf or massive exoplanet detected with powerful magnetic field

Brown dwarf or massive exoplanet detected with powerful magnetic field

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.

The so-called "rogue" planet does not revolve around a star, but instead rotates around the galactic center in interstellar space. A light year is equal to about 6 trillion miles.

"This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or "failed star", and is giving us some surprises", Dr Melodie Kao and astronomer at Arizona State University told The Independent. Nicknamed "failed stars", brown dwarfs are larger than planets, but not quite large enough to fuse hydrogen, the way stars do.

SIMP's magnetic field is over 200 times that of Jupiter's, notes the report.

Kao's team used a radio astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico called - fittingly - the "Very Large Array" (VLA) to pick up its magnetic activity and study it.

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.

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The planetary-mass object has been classified as rogue meaning it's free-floating and is not hitched to any parent star. They are originally formed inside a star system but somehow escaped.

Both its mass and the enormous strength of its magnetic field, which is more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter's, challenge what scientists know about the variety of astronomical objects found in the depths of space. It is a process by which celestial bodies like brown dwarfs and exoplanets generate a magnetic field. Researchers aren't sure how brown dwarf auroras happen - "rogue" planets like these lack a nearby star's solar wind for the magnetic field to interact with. Its temperature is also far cooler than the sun, at 825 degrees Celsius.

Brown dwarf masses are notoriously hard to measure, and at the time, the object was thought to be an old and much more massive brown dwarf.

This limit is around 13 Jupiter masses, so at 12.7 the newly identified planet was brushing right up against it.

"This particular object is exciting because studying its magnetic dynamo mechanisms can give us new insights on how the same type of mechanisms can operate in extrasolar planets - planets beyond our Solar System".

On the team with Kao and Hallinan were J. Sebastian Pineda, now at the University of Colorado Boulder, David Stevenson of Caltech, and Adam Burgasser of the University of California San Diego.

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