Space & Astronomy
'Forbidden' planet found in Neptunian Desert
By T.K. Randall
May 29, 2019 · 4 comments
This exoplanet has retained its atmosphere against all odds. Image Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Bacon, STScI
Astronomers have found a planet with an atmosphere in a region that was thought to be hostile to such worlds.
Known officially as NGTS-4b, the new extrasolar planet was discovered through an international collaboration led by researchers at the University of Warwick, England.
At three times the size of the Earth and 20 times the mass, this hellish, distant world orbits its parent star in just 1.3 days and is hotter than Mercury with temperatures exceeding 1,000C.
What makes it particularly unusual however is its presence in what is known as the Neptunian Desert - the region close to a star in which planets cannot retain their gaseous atmospheres.
Incredibly, NGTS-4b seems to have defied the odds by holding on to its atmosphere regardless.
"This planet must be tough," said Dr. Richard West.
"It is right in the zone where we expected Neptune-sized planets could not survive. It is truly remarkable that we found a transiting planet via a star dimming by less than 0.2% - this has never been done before by telescopes on the ground."
"We are now scouring out data to see if we can see any more planets in the Neptune Desert."
"Perhaps the desert is greener than was once thought."
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