Astronomers have used a desert-based observatory to identify an exoplanet that falls in the middle of what scientists called the Neptune Desert.
This term refers to a phenomenon that astronomers had noticed by this there seemed to be an absence of planets in Neptune size that orbited their star in less than four days. The newly discovered planet is formally known as NGTS-4b, but is also called "The Forbidden Planet" because of its alleged implausibility.
"This planet must be tough – right in the zone where we expected that Neptune-sized planets could not survive." Lead author Richard West, an astronomer at the University of Warwick in the UK, said in a statement . "It is really remarkable that we have found a transiting planet over a star that is darkened by less than 0.2% ̵
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The "Forbidden Planet" orbiting a star named NGTS-4, located about 920 light-years from Earth. The planet seems to orbit its star once every 1.3 Earth days, and it is about 20 times the mass and 3 times the Earth's radius. It also appears to preserve a atmosphere which particularly surprised the researchers, since it would be difficult for the planet so close to its gas to keep its distance from its star.
The researchers believe that despite its location, the planet can exist because it has formed elsewhere and has migrated to the Neptune Desert in the last million years. It could have been born much bigger and gradually lose material.
The planet was first discovered in data collected with the next generation Transit Survey Telescope in the mountains of the Atacama Desert of Chile . The team used a range of other telescopes to conduct follow-up observations that made them more confident in identifying and characterizing NGTS-4b.
And they hope to build on the new research results to find the company "Forbidden Planet". "We are now searching data to see if we can see more planets in the Neptune Desert," West said in the statement. "Maybe the desert is greener than you thought."
The research is described in an article published on April 20 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.