Scientists were very surprised that an exoplanet of this size could go unnoticed and exist in such harsh conditions.
Scientists were very surprised that an exoplanet of this size could go unnoticed and exist in such harsh conditions.

Hellish new planet discovery shocks experts

A NEW planet the size of Neptune that could vaporise you in under a second has amazed scientists because it shouldn't exist.

The exoplanet has been found in an area called the "Neptunian Desert", where no Neptune-sized planets are supposed to be able to survive due to the intense radiation.

Neptune is almost four times bigger than Earth and the fourth largest planet in our Solar System, so scientists were very surprised that an exoplanet of this size could go unnoticed and exist in such harsh conditions.

The newly discovered planet has been dubbed ‘The Forbidden Planet’ and is almost as big as Neptune.
The newly discovered planet has been dubbed ‘The Forbidden Planet’ and is almost as big as Neptune.

Leader of the research Dr Richard West, from the University of Warwick, explained: "This planet must be tough, 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 per cent. 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.

"We are now scouring our data to see if we can see any more planets in the Neptune Desert. Perhaps the desert is greener than was once thought."

Researchers now think the planet, officially called NGTS-4b, may have moved into the zone fairly recently in space terms or may have once been an even bigger planet that is still evaporating due to the radiation in the Neptunian Desert.

Neptune is the fourth biggest planet in our Solar System.
Neptune is the fourth biggest planet in our Solar System.

The phrase Neptunian Desert describes an area close to stars where large planets with their own atmospheres are not expected to survive very long, as the star radiation can evaporate the gaseous atmospheres of these planets until nothing is left but rock.

The newly discovered exoplanet has now been dubbed 'The Forbidden Planet' and is 20 times the mass of Earth, has a radius 2 per cent smaller than Neptune and is 1000 degrees Celsius.

When researchers look for new planets like this one they normally use a telescope to spot dips in star brightness, which could mean a planet is orbiting a star.

They normally require dips of 1 per cent in star brightness to find a planet but managed to find NGTS-4b using the NGTS telescope after the planet dimmed the star it orbits by only 0.2 per cent.

Similar techniques could now be used to discover more mysterious planets in the future.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission


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