'Forbidden Planet' found by astronomers in Neptunian Desert

Exoplanets have been making waves over the last 20 years, and now as technology advances, we may be about to meet some strange new worlds beyond our solar system.

Posted: Jul 1, 2019 8:00 PM
Updated: Jul 1, 2019 8:00 PM

Astronomers have found an exoplanet so rare that they have deemed it "The Forbidden Planet," according to a new study.

Technically known as NGTS-4b, the planet is three times the size of Earth and 20% smaller than Neptune. It's also hotter than Mercury with a temperature of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. And the planet has its own atmosphere.

An international team of astronomers used the Next-Generation Transit Survey observing facility to spot the small rogue planet.

Its mass is 20 Earth masses and it whips around its star in a full orbit every 1.3 days. A study detailing the planet published Monday in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week's discovery of 18 Earth-sized exoplanets.

It's the first exoplanet like this to be found in the Neptunian Desert. To be clear, this isn't a barren region on the gaseous planet of Neptune. Instead, it's a region close to stars where Neptune-sized planets can't be found.

Here, planets are blasted with radiation from stars, so the planets can't maintain their gaseous atmosphere. They evaporate and only a rocky core is left behind.

But NGTS-4b still has its gaseous atmosphere.

Astronomers believe that either the planet moved into this region within the last million years, or the planet itself was once bigger and the atmosphere is in the process of evaporating.

"This planet must be tough - it is right in the zone where we expected Neptune-sized planets could not survive,"said Richard West in a statement, study author and principal research fellow from the University of Warwick's department of physics. "It is truly remarkable that we found a transiting planet via a star dimming by less than 0.2% - 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."

This has sparked a new search for more planets and missions like NASA's planet-hunter TESS could further explore the region.

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

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto9953104
Hinds9892198
Harrison7045110
Jackson6270119
Rankin5462102
Lee501095
Madison4734106
Forrest380586
Jones354888
Lauderdale3425145
Lafayette321549
Washington3161107
Lamar289250
Oktibbeha244362
Bolivar240984
Lowndes234164
Panola219850
Neshoba2196118
Marshall213850
Leflore204790
Pontotoc199228
Monroe197377
Sunflower191655
Lincoln188765
Warren175357
Tate168051
Union166025
Copiah163040
Pike161658
Yazoo154239
Scott152129
Itawamba151534
Pearl River150867
Coahoma150143
Alcorn149628
Simpson146753
Prentiss144230
Adams141150
Grenada140645
Leake133543
Holmes129961
George124524
Tippah124530
Covington122238
Winston121624
Hancock120239
Wayne117223
Marion115846
Attala112234
Tishomingo108942
Chickasaw107132
Newton104229
Tallahatchie96827
Clay90327
Clarke89353
Jasper82022
Walthall76328
Stone76114
Calhoun73913
Montgomery73625
Carroll72115
Lawrence70814
Noxubee70617
Yalobusha70627
Smith70516
Perry66126
Tunica60619
Greene60022
Claiborne58316
Jefferson Davis56517
Amite53114
Humphreys53119
Benton49117
Quitman4897
Webster43414
Kemper42518
Wilkinson39422
Jefferson34811
Franklin3365
Choctaw3237
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1144
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 242874

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31944500
Mobile19687361
Madison13065148
Tuscaloosa12983154
Montgomery12286236
Shelby1020377
Baldwin860398
Lee773566
Morgan653850
Calhoun6240119
Marshall621355
Etowah621066
Houston523038
DeKalb481336
Cullman435442
Limestone420645
St. Clair415855
Elmore404564
Lauderdale400454
Walker3634111
Talladega349054
Jackson313423
Colbert309342
Blount288840
Autauga271642
Franklin251033
Coffee242615
Dale231854
Dallas225932
Chilton221938
Russell22143
Covington218534
Escambia197931
Chambers176550
Tallapoosa175791
Pike158314
Clarke158019
Marion137936
Winston132323
Lawrence127336
Pickens122318
Geneva12138
Marengo121024
Bibb117317
Barbour117110
Butler115341
Randolph102021
Cherokee101524
Hale96131
Clay91124
Washington90919
Fayette89816
Henry8526
Lowndes79529
Monroe78711
Cleburne77114
Macon73122
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69419
Conecuh68414
Perry6846
Lamar6718
Wilcox63218
Sumter57722
Greene42418
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 44°
Columbus
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 44°
Oxford
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 39°
Starkville
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather