"Galaxy Blue" by Souricette-du-13 / CC BY-SA 4.0

A Neptune-Like Planet Has Been Spotted in a Place Where It’s Not Supposed to Exist

May 30, 2019

By George Dvorsky

An international team of astronomers is reporting the discovery of a Neptune-like planet located some 920 light-years from Earth. Dubbed the “Forbidden Planet” by the researchers, this celestial object is locked in a freakishly close orbit with it host star in a configuration rarely seen.

New research published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society describes the discovery of a Neptune-like planet that’s so close to its host star that a single orbit takes just 1.34 days. A Neptune-like planet has never been found so close to its host star. And in fact, astronomers came up with a term, the “Neptune desert,” to describe this up-close-and-personal stellar zone. Unlike small and durable rocky planets or massive Hot Jupiters, Neptune-like planets aren’t supposed to exist at such a close distance, as the host star would burn the intermediate-sized object down its core. But this new exoplanet is defying those expectations.

More formally, the exoplanet has been given the designation NGTS-4b. It was discovered by the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS)—a ground-based telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

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