An exoplanet less than Neptune with its own atmosphere has been discovered in the Neptune desert around its star by an international collaboration between astronomers, where the University of Warwick took a leading role.
The rogue planet was identified in the new research led by Dr. Richard West, including Professor Peter Wheatley, dr. Daniel Bayliss and dr. James McCormac from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the University of Warwick.
NGTS is located at the European South Observatory's Paranal Observatory in the heart of the Atacama Desert, Chile. It is a collaboration between British universities Warwick, Leicester, Cambridge and Queen's University Belfast along with Observatoire de Geneva, DLR Berlin and Universidad de Chile.
NGTS-4b, also called "The Forbidden Planet" by researchers, is a planet smaller than Neptune but three times the size of the Earth.
It has a mass of 20 earth masses and a radius 20% less than Neptune and is 1
It is the first exoplanet of its kind that has been found in the Neptune Desert.
Neptunian Desert is the region close to stars where there are no Neptune-sized planets. This area receives strong irradiation from the star, which means that the planets do not retain their gaseous atmosphere as they evaporate, leaving only a rocky core. But NGTS-4b still has its atmosphere of gas.
When looking for new planets, astronomers seek a dip in the light of a star – this planet orbits it and blocks the light. Normally, only dips of 1% and more are picked up by terrestrial searches, but the NGTS telescopes can pick up a dip of only 0.2%.
Scientists believe the planet might have moved into the Neptune desert recently, for the last million years, or it was very large, and the atmosphere is still evaporating.
Dr. Richard West, from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick comments:
"This planet must be tough – it's just in zone where we expected Neptune-size planets to survive. It's really remarkable that we found a transit plane through a starry attenuation of less than 0.2% – it 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 cleaning data to see if we can see more planets in the Neptune – perhaps the desert is greener than you once thought. "[Source]
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