A ROGUE planet thought to be around three times bigger than Earth has been discovered by a group of astronomers including academics from Belfast.
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast were part of the international team that uncovered the existence of NGTS-4b, which has already been given the slightly foreboding nickname of “The Forbidden Planet”.
A team of scientists made discovery at the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) facility in Chile.
The planet was discovered in a region of space outside the Solar System known among astronomers as the Neptunian Desert.
It’s notable for the fact that no planet has previously been spotted in this particular region of space.
The Forbidden Planet is also said to come complete with its own atmosphere, only adding the the sense of intrigue surrounding the discovery.
Located in the Atacama Desert, the NGTS facility was built to aid in the discovery of new planets through a process involving the close examination of the light generated by stars, which are known to dip when orbiting planets pass through them.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph,Dr Chris Watson, from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's, said:
"Nature appears to be quite inventive with how it can form planets, and we have to be equally inventive in order to catch them. NGTS has been spectacular in this respect."