Discovery of a "super-Earth" near the solar system

18 November, 2018, 23:19 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • An artistic rendering imagines Barnard's star b's frozen rocky surface

Astronomers noticed the frozen, dimly lit world that is 3.2 times heavier than Earth, orbiting Barnard's Star, a red dwarf just six light years awayA "super-Earth" has been discovered orbiting the closest single star to our Sun, scientists said Wednesday in a breakthrough that could shine a light on Earth's nearest planetary neighbours.

Flashback: The exoplanet is the second closest known exoplanet to Earth, CNN reports.

The team's results appear online in the November 14, 2018 issue of the journal Nature. The other planet is in the Proxima Centauri System.

Artist's impression of the surface of the candidate planet orbiting Barnard's star.

Astronomers have hunted for a planet orbiting the red dwarf since the Sixties - and have now spotted a signal which suggests a planet orbiting the star. In fact, the surface temperature on Barnard's star b is speculated at around -170 degrees, so it defs doesn't sound like the ideal destination for an intergalactic getaway.

This is the first time that this technique has been used to detect a planet this small so far away from its host star.

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A planet, named Barnard's Star B, was found in the constellation Ophiucus, around Barnard's Star about 6 light-years from Earth (a light-year equals 5.9 trillion miles). It is an extremely faint red dwarf, being just 3 per cent as bright as the Sun.

Despite relative closeness to Barnard's Star (0.4 times the distance between Earth and the Sun), the exoplanet receives little energy from its faded host: only 2 percent that which the Sun provides our Earth.

A proximity which leaves the hope to study it soon with the arrival of new instruments of observation more powerful.

"After a very careful analysis, we are over 99 percent confident that the planet is there, since this is the model that best fits our observations", said Ribas. Redoubling their efforts, Vogt's team added 45 more radial velocity measurements from the newly commissioned Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope at UC's Lick Observatory, 39 velocities from the Carnegie Institution for Science's Planet Finder Spectrograph (PFS) on the Magellan II Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and more data that became publicly available in recent years from HARPS. The team of researchers combined 20 years worth of data from seven separate instruments to make their conclusion and discover the planet.

It might be cold, inhospitable and all but invisible but the new planet has one thing going for it: it's really close.

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