Research

Brown dwarf or massive exoplanet detected with powerful magnetic field

Brown dwarf or massive exoplanet detected with powerful magnetic field

The auroras on our planet are caused by its magnetic field interacting with the solar wind (the continuous flow of charged particles from the sun's upper atmosphere, known as the corona, that permeates the solar system). Its age meant that instead of a "failed star", they had found a free-floating planet. This first of its kind object is around 20 light years away from Earth. Brown dwarves are hard objects to categorise they are too huge to be considered planets and not big enough to be considered stars.

In any case, the newly discovered body has a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's and a surface temperature of about 825 degrees Celsius (more than 1,500 F).

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) have made the first radio-telescope detection of a planetary-mass object beyond our Solar System.

And it's not just the magnetic mechanism that's leaving scientists with questions right now - there are plenty of other mysteries about the object, which scientists first discovered in 2016.

The unusual object sits in a grey area between a star and a planet, and was originally classed as a "brown dwarf" - a failed star.

But as far as we know, brown dwarfs aren't in the vicinity of any stellar winds, making their auroras something of a puzzle.

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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. The boundary line is still debated, but scientists tend to draw it at about 13 times the mass of Jupiter.

"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", added Kao.

Once more data was obtained, the idea that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was a brown dwarf was scrapped. Brown dwarfs, hard to categorise, are too huge to be classified as planets and not big enough to be classified as stars.

The planet is believed to have scorching surface temperatures of around 825C.

The methods used suggest the researchers may have "a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star", researcher Gregg Hallinan said.


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