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Picture of the Day

VLA detects possible extrasolar planetary-mass magnetic powerhouse

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) have made the first radio-telescope detection of a planetary-mass object beyond our solar system. The object, about a dozen times more massive than Jupiter, is a surprisingly strong magnetic powerhouse and a "rogue," traveling through space unaccompanied by any parent star. Brown dwarfs are objects too massive to be considered planets, yet not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion of hydrogen in their cores -- the process that powers stars. Theorists suggested in the 1960s that such objects would exist, but the first one was not discovered until 1995. They originally were thought to not emit radio waves but in 2001, a VLA discovery of radio flaring in one revealed strong magnetic activity. The VLA observations provided both the first radio detection and the first measurement of the magnetic field of a possible planetary mass object beyond our solar system.

Visit Website | Image credit: Caltech/Chuck Carter; NRAO/AUI/NSF