There's something strange about a newly discovered planet about 920 light-years from Earth.
This planet is Neptune-like — meaning it's a gaseous orb about three times the size of Earth and resembling the wind-swept blue marble from our own solar system. It also inhabits a region of space called the Neptunian Desert, where scientists were hoping to find exoplanets of roughly Neptune's size — although this is the first ever sighted there.
Sure, the kind has been seen before. But the real Neptune is the eighth planet from our sun, taking around 165 Earth years to saunter around our central star. This planet hotfoots it around its sun in just 1.34 days. That's because it's impossibly close to the its host — so close that it shouldn't exist at all.
Earth's tough, rocky surface may be able to stand its ground against the scorching sun, but a Neptune-like planet, puffed up on its own gases, shouldn't last long in the face of a star.
"This planet must be tough — it is right in the zone where we expected Neptune-sized planets could not survive," study author Richard West, from the University of Warwick, notes in a statement. "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." He said.
It all adds up to the most baffling of space oddities — a finding so unexpected even researchers couldn't help but get creative with its name.
They're calling it the Forbidden Planet.