Scientists recently discovered a exoplanet roughly 3 times the Earth’s diameter, smaller than Neptune that has its own atmosphere in the Neptunian Desert through a recent research conducted by by Dr Richard West and his team, Professor Peter Wheatley, Dr Daniel Bayliss and Dr James McCormac from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the University of Warwick.
First exoplanet discovered in the Neptunian Desert
The planet was dubbed NGTS-4b, also known as “The Forbidden Planet.” It is known to be smaller than Neptune in size and even 20% lower in radius than Neptune, but 20 times the Earth’s mass. It has temperatures of roughly 1000 degrees Celsius at its surface and the timespan of a year on this planet is equivalent only 1.3 terrestrial days.
The aspect that makes this discovery so valuable is the fact that it is the first exoplanet to be found inside the Neptunian Desert. The latter is an area around a star delimitated by specialists, within whom no Neptune sized planets can be found. This is due to intense radiations emanated from the star that doesn’t allow planets to retain gaseous atmosphere as would they instantly evaporate, thus, leaving just the rocky core instead. However, as scientists proved, NGTS-4b is an exception, as it does have a gaseous atmosphere.
A premiere for ground telescopes
To identify new planets, scientists investigate as star and look for a dip in its light, which is usually formed by a planet that orbits the start and blocks the light.
The NTGS telescope can capture dips as small as 0.2%, compared to a typical telescope that can only pick up dips above 1%. 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. Moreover, he claims that the fact that they managed to identify such planet dimming by less than 0.2% is a first for ground telescopes, and that this motivates the team to further look for planets in the Neptune Desert.