A rogue planet has been discovered outside of our solar system, and the American Astronomical Society published a report last week detailing the nature of this very hot, very gassy celestial vagabond.
“SIMP J01365663+0933473” may not quite roll off the tongue, but that has not stopped it from becoming a hot topic of conversation. The planet is skirting the boundaries of our solar system — just 20 light years from Earth — and may prove to be an invaluable source of astronomic knowledge.
In a report published to The Astrophysical Journal, Melodie Kao and her colleagues estimated that SIMP is roughly 200 million years old and around 12 times the size of Jupiter. For a sense of that scale, let me remind you that Jupiter itself is roughly as big as 1,300 Earths. It also has a magnetic field about 200 times as strong as our infamously spotted neighbor’s, driving auroras much like our own, except with a lack of a sun, SIMP’s auroras are likely caused by magnetic play with one of its own moons.
While independent of a sun, SIMP is nevertheless too muggy to make it as an extraterrestrial vacation destination. The surface of SIMP is roughly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 Celsius), sitting “right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or ‘failed star,’” according to Kao. She said that SIMP “is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets.”
Caltech’s Gregg Hallinan said that researching SIMP “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.”
With the help of the same auroral radio emissions that drove SIMP’s discovery, we may forge a new understanding of the architecture of our universe.