The planet known as HAT-P-26b, which is a massive 437 light years from Earth, has been referred to as a “warm Neptune” due to it having a similar mass to the one in our solar system.
But the planet sits much closer to its host star.
What stunned researchers is that the planet’s atmosphere is made up almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, which is unusual for a planet so close to its host star – so close in fact that it takes just 4.23 days to orbit.
Analysis of the planet revealed it also has a strong water signature and is relatively clear of clouds.
Nasa discovers alien planet with signs of water
The planet has been described as a "warm neptune"
Lead author Hannah Wakeford, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “Astronomers have just begun to investigate the atmospheres of these distant Neptune-mass planets, and almost right away, we found an example that goes against the trend in our solar system.
“This kind of unexpected result is why I really love exploring the atmospheres of alien planets.”
The discovery could help scientists learn more about the solar system
Co-author Tiffany Kataria of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory added: “To have so much information about a warm Neptune is still rare, so analysing these data sets simultaneously is an achievement in and of itself.”
The research, the scientists say, could have huge implications regarding experts’ understanding of the formation of our solar system.
Out of this world pictures of Space
Thu, July 7, 2016
Here are breathtaking images taken from and of space, along with some of the greatest discoveries known to mankind.
1 of 39
Kepler telescope discovers 1,284 new planets
Professor David Sing from the University of Exeter said: "This exciting new discovery shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we have previously thought.
"This 'Warm Neptune' is a much smaller planet than those we have been able to characterise in depth, so this new discovery about its atmosphere feels like a big breakthrough in our pursuit to learn more about how solar systems are formed, and how it compares to our own."