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Newly found extreme world nicknamed The Forbidden Planet would melt a human in under a second

Charlotte Edwards, May 30, 2019 7:00PM The Sun

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Neptune is the fourth biggest planet in our Solar System. This exoplanet was found in what is called The Neptunian Desert, where no exoplanets the size of Neptune are supposed to be able to exist. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraNeptune is the fourth biggest planet in our Solar System. This exoplanet was found in what is called The Neptunian Desert, where no exoplanets the size of Neptune are supposed to be able to exist. Picture: Getty Images

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A new planet the size of Neptune that could vaporise* humans in under a second has amazed scientists because it shouldn’t exist.

The exoplanet has been found in an area called the Neptunian Desert, where no Neptune-sized planets are supposed to be able to survive due to the intense radiation*.

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

Lead researcher Richard West, from the University of Warwick in the UK, called the find “truly remarkable”.

“This planet must be tough, it is right in the zone where we expected Neptune-sized planets could not survive,” Dr West said.

The newly discovered planet has been dubbed 'The Forbidden Planet' and is almost as big as Neptune (Stock image)Credit: Hulton Archive - Getty media_cameraThe newly discovered planet has been nicknamed The Forbidden Planet and is almost as big as Neptune. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty

The scientists found the planet with telescopes on the ground on Earth.

“We are now scouring* our data to see if we can see any more planets in the Neptune Desert, perhaps the desert is greener than was once thought.”

Researchers now think that the planet, officially called NGTS-4b, may have moved into the zone fairly recently (recent in terms of space time) or may have once been an even bigger planet that is still evaporating* due to the radiation in the Neptunian Desert.

The name Neptunian Desert describes an area close to stars where large planets with their own atmospheres are not expected to survive very long as the star radiation can evaporate the gaseous atmospheres of these planets until nothing is left but rock.

The newly discovered exoplanet has now been nicknamed The Forbidden Planet and it is 20 times the mass of Earth, has a radius* that is 2 per cent smaller than that of Neptune and is 1000C.

When researchers look for new planets like this one they use a telescope to spot dips in star brightness, which could mean that a planet is orbiting a star.

They normally require dips of 1 per cent in star brightness to find a planet but managed to find NGTS-4b after the planet dimmed the star it orbits by only 0.2 per cent.

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

What's in an exoplanet name?

EXOPLANETS
An exoplanet is a planet that is located outside of our Solar System.

It is orbiting its own star, like how Earth orbits the Sun.

They are very hard to see with telescopes because they are often hidden by the brightness of their star.

NASA sent the Kepler space telescope into orbit with the purpose of finding Earth-sized exoplanets that might support life. This planet was found with a telescope on the ground on Earth.

More than 4000 exoplanets have been discovered so far. More exoplanet missions are planned.

A good way for scientists to spot an exoplanet is to look for “wobbly” stars because a disruption to starlight can indicate that a planet is orbiting it and therefore occasionally blocking out light.

Exoplanets are very common in the Universe and the more we find that look like Earth the closer we get to knowing if there is other life out there.

GLOSSARY

  • vaporise: turn into a gas, or vapour
  • radiation: giving off energy
  • scouring: looking very carefully
  • evaporating: vaporising;turning from a liquid into a gas
  • radius: distance from the middle to the edge of a sphere or ball shape

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How big is Neptune compared to Earth?
  2. What is the official name and the nickname of this exoplanet?
  3. What is the difference between a planet and an exoplanet?
  4. Was this planet found with a telescope up in space?
  5. Are exoplanets rare in the Universe?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1.
Find the evidence
Scientists are ‘amazed’ by this discovery! Given they are looking for exoplanets – why is this discovery so surprising? Read through the article and list all the reasons why this discovery is so extraordinary.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science 

2.Extension
‘The Forbidden Planet’
This is a great nickname for this planet. Explain why this is appropriate.

Can you think of another appropriate nickname for this planet? When deciding on a nickname, think about what you know about the planet. For example: where it is, who discovered it, its size, what is happening to it or on it. A nickname can highlight something obvious about the planet (such as its size) or be more ‘figurative’ (such as ‘forbidden’). Make sure you are able to explain why your nickname is appropriate for this planet.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
The Forbidden Planet
Sounds like a good book title doesn’t it? We want you to pitch a book idea to us that would be titled The Forbidden Planet. Your pitch will be a little more than a blurb,  draw us in with some excitement and suspense of what’s in the book so we want to read more. Don’t give to much away, so keep the details brief. But as it’s a pitch, you do need to tell us the main idea of the book, if there is a moral and also the conclusion. From here, the publishers can decide if they think your ideas are interesting or unique enough to turn into a full book.

Don’t forget your VCOP to give your pitch voice.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think we will ever find planets that are home to life?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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