Super-Earth discovered around the second nearest stellar system

Barnard's Planet

European astronomers have discovered a relatively small "super-Earth" orbiting Barnard's star, the nearest to us a single star.

So, Anglada-Escude wondered if there are similar planets in other closest to us stars, most of which are red dwarfs - stars Barnard, remote from Earth only six light-years, and Ross 154, located at nearly ten light years from the Solar system.

Barnard's star b receives the equivalent of only 2 percent of the energy the Earth receives from the Sun, making the exoplanet a frigid and not so nice place to live where temperatures could reach as low as -170 degrees celsius. But the new planet orbits far enough from Barnard's star that it had been missed by earlier attempts. This is well beyond the habitable zone in which liquid water, and possibly life, could exist. If there is a planet orbiting the star, three times the mass of Earth, the same technique espoused by van de Kamp should reveal its presence. "If it has any water or gas this is probably in solid form so that´s why we call it frozen", said Ribas. When an object moves away from us, the light we observe becomes slightly less energetic and redder.

This chart shows the location of Barnard's Star and marks most of the stars visible to the unaided eye on a clear dark night.

For observations of a large global team of scientists led by Spanish astrophysicist Ignasi Ribas (Ignasi Ribas), used the HIRES spectrometer located in Hawaii, the W. M. Keck Observatory.

Astronomers stitched data from seven instruments including the Planet Finding Spectrograph on Magellan II telescope at Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington D.C., Xinhua reported.

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Now, an worldwide team of astronomers has managed to discover a possible planet, known as a super-Earth, orbiting the star.

"This made Barnard's star the most important star in the sky because it is the nearest single star in the sky", Butler said. Very few exoplanets have been found so far from their stars (planets with short orbital periods generate more frequent signals, making them easier to detect).

"Barnard's star has a rather bad reputation among astronomers - in the past, many people have repeatedly talked about the discovery of planets around her, and all these statements were later refuted". With the Doppler effect, as a planet orbits a star, the planet's gravitational pull causes its star to wobble a little bit.

"After a very careful analysis, we are 99% confident that the planet is there", stated the team's lead scientist, Ignasi Ribas (Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia and the Institute of Space Sciences, CSIC in Spain). As larger and more refined observatories are about to come online in the 2020s, it may be easier to distinguish the light reflected from a planet from the light that comes from its host star. But the methods we've used to detect a lot of them are biased toward finding large planets that orbit close to their host stars. (The new paper mentions that Gaia, a space-based astrometry observatory, might be able to confirm the planet.) Because of its size, the planet makes about a 3 to 4 meter per second radial velocity change-stronger than the other planetary candidate, but without the sheer number of observations to rule out an alternate explanation. "We would learn so much about this planet", Ribas says.

Barnard's Star has always been "the great white whale" of exoplanet hunting, said Carnegie astronomer Paul Butler, a co-author on the Nature paper.

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