This "Super Earth" Is Only 6 Light Years From Earth

17 November, 2018, 16:01 | Author: Patty Aguilar
  • Barnard's star

Studying Barnard's Star b will provide an insight into what sort of planets can form around these old red dwarfs.

"We knew we would have to be patient". Previously, an exoplanet was found orbiting in the Proxima Centauri three-star system. Ribas is lead author of a report outlining the new discovery published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

An global team discovered a frozen Super-Earth orbiting the second closest star system or the closest single star to our own Sun, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

This is not the first time that astronomers have thought they had found a planet around Barnard's Star. The letter "b" is the suffix showing it is the first planet in the system-for example, if there were another planet in this system, it would likely be called Barnard's Star c.

If Barnard's Star b exists, its discovery could not have come at a more opportune time.

Despite surface temperatures of around minus 150C, scientists believe pockets of liquid water could lie beneath the ice capable of harbouring life.

Since the planet's initial detection, an worldwide effort called the Red Dots collaboration - led by Guillem Anglada-Escude at Queen Mary University of London and formerly based at the University of Hertfordshire - has been monitoring Barnard's star with high precision instruments to investigate the signal. It moves so rapidly against the background stars that it would cross the diameter of the full Moon in a little over 100 years. It is about a sixth of the sun's size and the closest single star to it. People can't see this star without the use of a decent telescope. Teams of semi-professional astronomers coordinated by the American Association of Variable Star Observers also contributed to the detection. "He recognized that this star had the largest known proper motion a century ago".


Barnard's Star b orbits its host at a distance of 60 million kilometres. The claims were hotly disputed and, while van de Kamp predicted the orbiting planets would be gas giants not rock worlds, he did at least get the planetary prediction right. It's a red dwarf, the most common kind of star in the Universe, adding to our confidence that planets are common around these tiny stars.

They then used a phenomenon known as the Doppler effect to track the impact of its gravitational pull on its parent star.

"We used observations from seven different instruments, spanning 20 years of measurements, making this one of the largest and most extensive datasets ever used for precise radial velocity studies", said Ribas. "This study sets a wonderful example of collaboration and coordination across multiple teams and multiple data sets, something that doesn't always happen successfully in exoplanet research".

These methods haven't always been available to astronomers searching for exoplanets.

The existence of Barnard's star b was confirmed after two decades of observations by the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain using the radial velocity technique. It worked only for the nearest stars and was achieved by taking photographs of the star and measuring its positions in relation to one another.

Artist's impression of Barnard's star b viewed from space. In 2015, astronomers saw hints of such shifts in the light from Barnard's star. But as Barnard's star is said to be very calm and behave based on observations, Ribas and his team are confident that what they saw is a real planet.

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