A diverse astronomy team recently utilized the Next-Generation Survey observation facility – located at the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert in northern Chile – to find a rare exoplanet they’ve called “The Forbidden Planet”. The study with the planet’s details was published earlier this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal. The planet scientifically known as NGTS-4b is 200 percent larger than Earth and roughly 20 percent smaller than Neptune. It has a temperature of about 1,832F (over 1,000 degrees hotter than Mercury) and it also possesses an atmosphere. It has a mass around 20 times greater than Earth’s and it orbits its star in just 1.3 days.
What is the Neptune Desert?
The introduction of this planet has come shortly after the discovery made last week of 18 Earth-sized exoplanets. It’s the first planet of its kind that has been discovered in the Neptune Desert. To avoid confusion, the Neptune Desert is not a desolate area somewhere on the planet Neptune. It’s a section located near stars that are void of any Neptune-sized planets. It’s a region where radiation emitted from the stars hits the nearby planets, rendering the planets incapable of sustaining a gaseous atmosphere. They’re eventually worn down leaving behind nothing but a rocky core.
“This planet must be tough. It is right in the zone where we expected Neptune-sized planets could not survive,” according to the author of the study, and principle research member from the University of Warwick’s physics department, Richard West. “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, and it was great to find after working on this project for a year.”
They are now looking to see if they can discover any new planets in the area. West said, “Perhaps the desert is greener than was once thought.”