New planet that should not exist found in the Neptunian desert

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A new planet the size of Neptune that could vaporize you in less than a second has surprised scientists because it shouldn't exist.

The exoplanet was found in an area called the "Neptunian desert", where no planet of Neptune size should survive due to intense radiation.

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

The head of research, dr. Richard West, of Warwick University, explained: "This planet must be tough, it is precisely in the area where we expected Neptune-sized planets could not survive.

"It's really extraordinary that we found a planet transiting through a star that oscillates less than 0.2 percent. This was never done before by telescopes on the ground, and it was great to find it after working on this project for a year.

"We are analyzing our data to see if we can see other planets in the Neptune desert. Perhaps the desert is greener than we once thought."

The researchers now think that the planet, officially called NGTS-4b, may have moved to the area quite recently in space terms or it may have been an even bigger planet that is still evaporating due to radiation in the Neptunian desert.

The Neptunian desert phrase describes an area close to the stars where large planets with their own atmospheres are not expected to survive for a long time, as stellar radiation can evaporate the gaseous atmospheres of these planets until nothing but rock remains.

The newly discovered exoplanet has been nicknamed "The Forbidden Planet" and is 20 times the mass of the Earth, has a radius of 2% smaller than Neptune and is 1000 degrees Celsius.

When researchers search for new planets like this, they normally use a telescope to detect dives in the brightness of the stars, which could mean that a planet is orbiting around a star.

Normally they require a 1% drop in the brightness of the stars to find a planet but they managed to find NGTS-4b using the NGTS telescope after the planet darkened the star by only 0.2%.

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

This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced with permission

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