Mysterious "rogue planet" found drifting through space alone

Astronomers have spotted a strange "rogue" planet drifting through the galaxy without a star and emitting a strange aurora-like glow wherever it goes.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 09, 2018
A 200-million-year-old object with the mass of a planet is drifting through our galaxy, untethered to any parent star, says a study published this month in the Astrophysics Journal Supplement Series. The researchers describe the object as somewhere in size between a planet and a failed "brown dwarf" star, and they said that its magnetic field's properties could reveal insights relevant to our knowledge of planets and stars alike.

The object, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, is now around 20 light-years from our solar system, according to the study authors, who said that the object is 12.7 times the mass of our solar system's Jupiter and has a surface temperature of more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is much warmer than any planet but much colder than a typical starastronomers said that our sun's surface temperature runs at around 9,932 degrees Fahrenheit.

It also emanates an aurora-like glow, according to the study. The study authors think this may be a product of the object's magnetic field, which they said is about 200 times as strong as Jupiter's. The aurora is similar to those that we see on Earth when our atmosphere interacts with solar wind.

Melodie Kao, study author and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University, said that she and fellow researchers determined the magnetic field's strength from data from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico. This observatory was where other researchers first discovered the object in 2016.

Other exoplanets may produce aurora-like emissionsincluding, maybe, other "rogue" exoplanets that don't have stars, said Gregg Hallinan, study co-author. He hopes that researchers may similarly discover more exoplanets by way of their radio emissions.

"We may have a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star," Hallinan said.

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