Strange 'rogue planet' travels through space alone

A strange 200 million-year-old object with the mass of a planet has been discovered 20 light-years from Eart...

Posted: Aug 7, 2018 5:17 PM
Updated: Aug 7, 2018 5:17 PM

A strange 200 million-year-old object with the mass of a planet has been discovered 20 light-years from Earth, outside our solar system. The "rogue," as it's referred to by researchers, is producing an unexplained glowing aurora and travels through space alone, without a parent star.

The object, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, has 12.7 times the mass of the gas giant Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. It also has a strong magnetic field that is more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter's.

Celestial bodies and objects

Planets and moons

Space and astronomy

Space exploration

The temperature on its surface is more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this sounds hot, it's quite cool compared with the sun's surface temperature of about 9,932 degrees Fahrenheit.

So what exactly is this rogue object?

A study published this month in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series includes details from the detection.

This is the first radio-telescope detection and first measurement of the magnetic field of such an object beyond our solar system. Astronomers found it using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico.

The surprising find is peculiar because it could be a planet or a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are often considered too massive to be planets, but they aren't quite massive enough to sustain the process of hydrogen nuclear fusion at their core, which powers stars. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995, although they were first theorized in the 1960s.

"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 Melodie Kao, study author and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University, in a statement.

The difference between a gas giant and a brown dwarf has been the subject of debate among astronomers. However, they agree that a dividing line can be achieved when an object is around the size of 13 Jupiter masses.

When this object was discovered in 2016 along with four brown dwarfs, scientists believed that it was older and more massive. Last year, an independent team of scientists discovered that it was actually part of a young group of stars and less massive.

They were able to determine its mass and determine that the object could be a free-floating planet.

Kao heard those results when she was looking at the newest data from the radio astronomy observatory, which helped the researchers determine the strong magnetic field. That field is also helping produce the auroras, which gave off the radio signal they detected. The auroras are similar to those on Earth that happen when our magnetic field interacts with solar wind.

Brown dwarfs can produce strong auroras as well, but the cause behind them is unclear because they don't have solar wind from nearby stars. One theory is that auroras happen when a planet or moon interacts with the brown dwarf's magnetic field.

"[This 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," said Gregg Hallinan, study co-author and assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Astronomy, in a statement. "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."

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

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35712

Reported Deaths: 2207
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10037594
Lake3806202
Allen174371
Cass15927
Elkhart143529
St. Joseph132035
Hamilton118094
Hendricks118074
Johnson1120110
Madison59761
Porter55329
Clark52841
Bartholomew52238
Howard43734
LaPorte43624
Tippecanoe4214
Shelby39822
Jackson3942
Delaware38740
Hancock34928
Floyd32140
Boone31835
Vanderburgh2902
Morgan28324
Noble25121
Montgomery24417
Clinton2401
White2389
Decatur23031
Grant22123
Dubois2053
Harrison19622
Henry18412
Vigo1758
Greene17125
Dearborn17021
Monroe17012
Warrick16728
Kosciusko1661
Lawrence16524
Marshall1472
Miami1411
Putnam1377
Orange13122
Jennings1314
Scott1223
Franklin1158
Ripley1086
LaGrange1022
Daviess9516
Carroll933
Steuben872
Wayne865
Wabash802
Fayette797
Newton7810
Jasper701
Jay530
Clay522
Washington511
Rush503
Randolph503
Fulton501
Pulaski490
Jefferson471
Whitley443
DeKalb431
Starke393
Sullivan371
Owen341
Perry340
Huntington342
Brown331
Benton320
Wells320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams201
Gibson182
Parke180
Posey160
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin120
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0175

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36792

Reported Deaths: 2300
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6112290
Cuyahoga4669247
Hamilton2739164
Marion267931
Lucas2296256
Pickaway209537
Summit1487181
Mahoning1463188
Butler93333
Columbiana88952
Stark75299
Lorain70960
Montgomery69516
Trumbull58451
Belmont43914
Warren39021
Medina36623
Miami36230
Tuscarawas3604
Ashtabula34537
Delaware34414
Portage33257
Lake31812
Fairfield3108
Clark3067
Wood30348
Geauga29533
Wayne28851
Licking26510
Mercer2207
Clermont2165
Allen21433
Richland2093
Darke18423
Erie18216
Madison1627
Washington11819
Crawford1174
Morrow1071
Ottawa10217
Greene1025
Putnam9514
Sandusky8512
Monroe7914
Auglaize763
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Hardin640
Huron601
Williams561
Union551
Muskingum521
Hancock511
Shelby463
Holmes463
Clinton451
Fulton450
Wyandot442
Coshocton400
Logan400
Fayette400
Preble391
Guernsey362
Defiance342
Carroll313
Brown301
Lawrence300
Champaign281
Highland261
Knox251
Seneca242
Vinton212
Ashland210
Perry191
Athens181
Henry170
Scioto170
Paulding140
Jackson140
Adams101
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Noble60
Meigs60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 67°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Warm & Humid Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events