Credit: Caltech/Chuck Carter; NRAO/AUI/NSF
Caltech scientists have made the first radio-telescope detection of a planetary-mass object beyond our solar system
The object is around a dozen times more massive than Jupiter, is a surprisingly strong magnetic powerhouse and traveling through space unaccompanied by any parent star.
"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, who led this study while a graduate student at Caltech, and is now a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University.
The object is traveling through the galaxy at approximately 20 light-years away from Earth and has an unusual magnetic aurora emanating from its pole around 200 times brighter than that of any planet in the solar system.
The observations made using the VLA provided both the first radio detection and the first direct measurement of the magnetic field of a possible planetary mass object beyond our solar system.
Such a strong magnetic field "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, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Caltech.
Excerpt adapted from NRAO press release: Read more here