A bizarre rogue planet without a star is roaming the Milky Way just 20 light-years from the Sun. And according to a recently published study in The Astrophysical Journal, this strange, nomadic world has an incredibly powerful magnetic field that is some 4 million times stronger than Earth’s. Furthermore, it generates spectacular auroras that would put our own northern lights to shame.
The new observations, made with the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), not only are the first radio observations of a planetary-mass object beyond our solar system, but also mark the first time researchers have measured the magnetic field of such a body.
The peculiar and untethered object, succinctly named SIMP J01365663+0933473 (we’ll call it SIMP for simplicity’s sake), was first discovered back in 2016. At the time, researchers thought SIMP was a brown dwarf: an object that’s too big to be a planet, but too small to be a star. However, last year, another study showed that SIMP is just small enough, at 12.7 times the mass and 1.2 times the radius of Jupiter, to be considered a planet — albeit a mammoth one.