Astronomers have been puzzled for many years about the presence and absence of planets the size of Neptune which are placed closely to their respective stars.
A team of scientists and astronomers at the University of Kansas have now discovered a new and extremely rare exoplanet called a hot Neptune. This new discovery may shed some light on the planetary oddity about the exoplanet that has been puzzling astronomers.
Usually hot Neptunes are planets which are roughly the same size as Neptune and lie close to their respective stars. The reason astronomers think they are rare is because planets of this magnitude rapidly lose their atmosphere when they are at proximity to their stars and erode quickly to Earth’s size.
Another reason for this hot Neptune being so rare is because the area close to the star is often referred to as ‘Neptune desert’ by the astronomers.
The team at the University of Kansas recently discovered one such hot Neptune from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Spitzer mission’s data. The exoplanet named as Planet LTT 9779b was investigated using phase curve analysis technique and relied on infrared light emitted by the planet to measure which parts of the planet are the hottest.
According to Ian Crossfield, lead author of the paper, it is the first time that they measured the light emitting from the planet which shouldn’t exist. As the planet is so intensely irradiated by its respective star that their temperature is over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and its atmosphere could entirely be evaporated.
Crossfield also pointed at some unusual findings about the planet which include its location and surface temperatures being higher than that of planet Mercury.
Its surface temperature is so high that even heavy metals like lead, platinum and chromium would melt in its atmosphere, he said. Labelling it a pretty extreme system as the duration of a year on this planet is less than Earth’s 24 hours, that’s how quickly it is spinning around its star.
As most of the studies are carried out to examine the planet’s atmosphere and develop tools for searching future habitable planets, the new hot Neptune will be studied further using the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.