Mysterious planets that appeared to be missing from the universe turned into rocky ‘Super Earths’, a new study suggests.
Experts have just discovered that one of these planets – known as ‘Hot Neptunes’ – is losing its atmosphere at a frantic pace.
Hot Neptunes are alien planets around the size of Neptune that are located close to their host stars.
The new observation supports the theory that most have lost their atmospheres and turned into smaller planets called ‘Super Earths’, which are much more numerous.
A team of researchers, led by astronomers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, made the discovery.
‘This is the first time that a planet has been observed to lose its atmosphere so quickly that it can impact its evolution,’ says Vincent Bourrier, UNIGE researcher and first author of the study.
Astronomers hunting exoplanets have found a large number of hot planets around the size of Jupiter.
They have also uncovered numerous others a little larger than the Earth – dubbed Super Earths – whose diameters are no larger than 1.5 times that of the Earth.
However, no planets that are close to their host star and the size of Neptune have been found.
Experts liken this to fishermen netting only big and little fish, but finding very few medium sized fish.