A massive "rogue" planet with an unexplained "glow" has been seen drifting alone through space, scientists claim. A light year is equal to about 6 trillion miles. Although they're not planets, brown dwarfs are not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion of ordinary hydrogen to helium - and therefore, are not technically stars either. It is 12 times bigger than Jupiter and has a very odd feature: it does not orbit any star. They say its strong magnetic field likely led to its being detected by a large radio-telescope in New Mexico known as the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA). The first ever sighting of a Brown Dwarf happened as late as 1995. That's because spotting the dips in the star's brightness as the planet passes in front of it gives away its presence.
On Earth, auroras are generated by interactions between its magnetic field and solar winds.
It is these radio signatures emitted by the auroras of such rogue objects that allow researchers to detect them. Originally detected in 2016, it was one of five brown dwarfs that astronomers studied using the VLA. The rogue planet is also 12 times bigger than Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, with a magnetic field that is 200 times stronger. However, brown dwarfs are typically solitary and don't have a nearby star - therefore they don't have any solar wind to interact with.
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Brown dwarf masses are notoriously hard to measure, and at the time, the object was thought to be an old and much more massive brown dwarf.
The boundary often used to distinguish a massive gas giant plant from a brown dwarf is the "deuterium-burning limit" - the mass below whichdeuterium stops being fused in the objects core.
The observed 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, of Caltech.
The new discovery can make boffins believe that they may have a novel way of detecting and finding exoplanets, including rogue ones that are hard to identify since they are not orbiting a parent star like the planets do in our solar system.