A planet for Barnard’s Star… the fourth closest star to our own!

Barnard's star b's surface

A new "Super Earth" planet has been discovered orbiting a nearby star system so how quickly can humans reach it and would we want to? The Red Dots team was also involved in the recent discovery of planets around Earth's nearest star system, Proxima Centauri. Known as a "super-Earth", the planet (designated Barnard's Star b, or GJ 699 b) is thought to be at least 3.3 times the mass of Earth and orbits its star once every 233 days.

It is outside the habitable zone at a distance exceeding the so-called "snow border", where liquid water can not exist and has no chance at life.

Despite surface temperatures of around minus 150C, scientists believe pockets of liquid water could lie beneath the ice capable of harbouring life. However, if the planet has a substantial atmosphere the temperature could be higher and conditions potentially more hospitable.

To come to this conclusion he used a technique called astrometry that measures the movement of a single star across the celestial sphere.

Patterns in those spectral variations can point to the gravitational wobbles induced by a planet orbiting an alien star.

These wobbles also affect the light coming from the star.

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As the star moves towards the Earth its spectrum appears slightly shifted towards the blue and, as it moves away, it is shifted towards the red.

Scientists kept looking at the star, and now astronomers from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia and the Institute of Space Sciences in Spain have assembled 20 years of data to reveal Barnard's Star b. "If the planet can be observed directly it will provide vital information about its properties and extend our understanding of the kinds of planets that form around red dwarf stars", researchers said.

The latest discovery got detailed in the journal "Nature". "We always have to remain a bit cautious, and of course more data should strengthen the case for it, but we were sure enough that we were willing to go forward with publication".

The planet's existence has been proven by an global team of researchers, including boffins from the University of Hertfordshire.

While an exciting (and historic) find, you can forget about Barnard's Star b bearing any resemblance to our planet.

He added: "Many of them are frozen on the surface". Barnard's Star is what we call an M3.5 star, with just 0.16 times the Sun's mass and 0.18 times its diameter.

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While the planet doesn't seem exactly hospitable, future advancement may allow us to colonize it in the future and make use of the large ice reserves that can be found on the planet.

This image shows an artist's impression of the planet's surface. More recently, most exoplanets have been detected using a different technique known as the transit method.

[3] The facilities used in this research were: HARPS at the ESO 3.6-metre telescope; UVES at the ESO VLT; HARPS-N at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo; HIRES at the Keck 10-metre telescope; PFS at the Carnegie's Magellan 6.5-m telescope; APF at the 2.4-m telescope at Lick Observatory; and CARMENES at the Calar Alto Observatory.

Rodrigo Diaz, an astronomer at the University of Buenos Aires who was not involved in the new work, said that, while the findings are promising, he'd still like to see more evidence of the new planet's existence.

Barnard's star is dim and old red dwarf, open only 100 years ago that wouldn't draw much attention, if not was only six light years from Earth.

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