An global team of astronomers have discovered a small exoplanet with a private atmosphere in "the desert of Neptune" - region where the laws of physics, such objects may not be. But unusually, NGTS-4b bucks this trend.
Something unusual has to be happening for The Forbidden Planet to still have its atmosphere.
NGTS-4b is smaller than Neptune and three times the size of Earth.
Located 920 light years from Earth, exoplanet NGTS-4b is 20 percent smaller than Neptune, yet it retains an atmosphere despite being close enough to circle its star once every 1.3 days and having a surface temperature of 1,000° C (1,800° F). It orbits its star in what is known as the Neptunian Desert, an area where planets of its ilk can not remain stable. The reason for a label right out of a sci-fi thriller is that this exoplanet has been found where scientists didn't think one could exist, in what's known as the Neptunian Desert, reports Australia's ABC.
Researchers previously believed this region was inhospitable to Neptune-sized planets because it receives strong heat and radiation from the star, which prevents the planets from retaining their gaseous atmospheres.
The unusual exoplanet is officially called NGTS-4b and was discovered in the brutal Neptunian Desert, a super-hot death zone in space.
When astronomers search for exoplanets they rarely know what they're going to find, but that doesn't mean there aren't rules that would-be planets are expected to follow.
The hardy planet was discovered by the team using the Next-Generation Transit Survey, an array of 12 ground-based telescopes lying in the Atacama desert in Chile.
"It's really remarkable that we found a planet in transition in front of a star only decreasing 0.2% of its brightness". The telescopes will focus on discovering Neptune-sized and smaller planets, with diameters between two and eight times that of Earth. The results are reported in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. To avoid confusion, the Neptune Desert is not a desolate area somewhere on the planet Neptune. The latter is an area around a star delimitated by specialists, within whom no Neptune sized planets can be found.
"We are now searching our data for other similar planets to help us understand how dry this Neptunian Desert is, or whether it is greener than was once thought", said Gillen.
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