Giant ‘Rogue’ Planet Just Spotted A Mere 20 Light-Years Away From Earth

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.

Exoplanet
Dotted Yeti / Shutterstock

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.

A strange, massive exoplanet was recently discovered wandering near the border of our solar system, announced a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The giant planet lies just 20 light-years from Earth and was spotted with the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico, thereby becoming the first planetary-mass object to ever be detected through radio telescopy, Science Alert reports.

While this discovery is noteworthy in itself, there’s more to the newly found galactic wanderer than meets the, err… telescope lens.

Dubbed SIMP J01365663+0933473, this peculiar exoplanet has baffled astronomers because it seems to be floating around without being attached to a parent star, which qualifies it as a “rogue,” notes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Furthermore, the gigantic 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.

According to the sources, this unusual exoplanet was first spotted two years ago, but it was cataloged as a massive brown dwarf — celestial objects that are too big to be planets but too small to constitute even the smallest star.

However, recent VLA observations have uncovered that SIMP J01365663+0933473 is too lightweight to be a brown dwarf. The enigmatic celestial body was found to have a planetary mass and weigh 12.7 times more than Jupiter, despite having a radius only 1.22 times bigger than that of the gas giant.

“This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or ‘failed star,’ and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets,” said study lead author Melodie Kao, an astronomer at Arizona State University.

This perplexing exoplanet is believed to have formed 200 million years ago — extremely young on a cosmic scale — and is now being described as a “magnetic powerhouse,” after the new study revealed that SIMP J01365663+0933473 has an even stronger magnetic field than the original observations showed back in 2016.

Mysterious Auroras

Although the planet is roaming the galaxy by itself, without a companion star to orbit, its surface is quite hot judging by planetary standards. Latest measurements have established that the exoplanet has a surface temperature of 825 degrees Celsius (around 1517 degrees Fahrenheit), shows the International Business Times.

Yet, all these unusual features still can’t explain how the exoplanet got its incredibly strong magnetic field — a mystery that astronomers are still trying to crack.

In fact, Kao’s team says the exoplanet even has auroras, which give off radio emissions that the VLA has managed to pick up.

A few decades ago, scientists believed that brown dwarf stars don’t have magnetic fields. 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.

Brown dwarf star. Diego Barucco / Shutterstock

Nevertheless, we still can’t figure out how brown dwarf stars get auroras, considering they’re nowhere near any type of stellar winds. Kao’s team hopes the bizarre “rogue” exoplanet might shed some light into the matter.

“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,” said Kao. “We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets.”

Study co-author Gregg Hallinan, an astronomer at Caltech, also chimed in on the discovery.

“Detecting SIMP J01365663+0933473 with the VLA through its auroral radio emission also means that we may have a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star.”