A picturesque night display, known as an aurora when it happens on Earth, has been found lighting up the skies on a world outside our solar system for the first time.
LSR J1835 is a brown dwarf about 18.5 light years away. Not quite a star, but too big to be a planet, its strong magnetic field suggests it can produce displays at "luminosities far greater than those observed in our Solar System", according to new research published today in Nature.
"Whereas the magnetic activity of stars like our Sun is powered by processes that occur in their lower atmospheres, LSR J1835's aurorae are powered by processes originating much further out in the dwarf's magnetosphere that drive energy into the lower atmosphere," researchers from the California Institute of Technology explain.
"The dissipated power is at least 10,000 times larger than that produced in the magnetosphere of Jupiter."
The existence of aurora on the brown dwarf, located in the constellation Lyra, were inferred from the detection of radio and optical auroral emissions.
Aurora can be seen at high and low latitudes on Earth. In the south, they're called aurora australis, or the Southern Lights; in the north, aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights.
It's been suggested LSR J1835's equivalent be named aurora 'extraterrestrialis'.
In our solar system, only Mars and Venus do not have magnetic fields, therefore no aurora.