Neptune DISCOVERY: Nightmarish ’Forbidden Planet' FOUND in hellish ‘Neptunian Desert’

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That term refers to a phenomenon that astronomers had noticed by which there seemed to be an absence of Neptune-size planets that orbit their star in less than four days.

"For this "Forbidden Planet" to exist at all, there must be something else going on that we haven't quite worked out", Bayliss said.

Researchers hope this is just the beginning for locating planets in the Neptune desert. As Dr. Richard West, from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick, states that "The Forbidden Planet" must be tough, as it located in such harsh conditions. Instead, it's thought the atmospheres would just evaporate, leaving only a rocky core. It also seems to retain an atmosphere, which particularly surprised the researchers, since at such a close distance to its star it would be hard for the planet to cling to gas. It is also considered extremely hot even for such a small exoplanet, with temperatures reaching about 1,000 degrees Celsius.

The exoplanet has been found in the "Neptunian Desert", an area where no planets the size of Neptune should be able to survive due to intense radiation. With a dip nearly that small, this exoplanet is, by a long way, the shallowest transiting planet ever discovered by a ground-based survey (the transit is less than 0.2%).

Astronomers have discovered a very rare, very unusual planet in a distant solar system.

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"This planet may have moved into the Neptunian desert recently, in the last one million years, or it was very big and the atmosphere is still evaporating", said Dr. Richard West from the University of Warwick and colleagues. This project will search for transiting exoplanets - planets that pass in front of their parent star and hence produce a slight dimming of the star's light that can be detected by sensitive instruments.

"This planet resides in a region very close to its host star, so close that the planet will receive very strong irradiation from the star, stripping the planet of its atmosphere", SAAO Science Engagement Astronomer Dr Daniel Cunnama told News24 on Thursday.

"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. Usually, only dips of greater than 1% are picked up by ground-based searches, but the NGTS telescopes can pick up a dip of just 0.1%. However, as scientists proved, NGTS-4b is an exception, as it does have a gaseous atmosphere.

NGTS-4 was observed using a single NGTS camera over 272 nights between August 6, 2016 and May 5, 2017, from the Next-Generation Transit Survey in northern Chile.