Scientists Discover Potential SuperEarth Orbiting Nearby Star

first_imgStay on target A super-Earth-like exoplanet has been discovered orbiting the “nearby” Barnard’s Star (only six light-years away!).Spotted using data from a global array of telescopes—including the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere’s (ESO’s) planet-hunting HARPS instrument—the dimly lit, frozen world is the second-closest known exoplanet to Earth.This breakthrough, announced in a paper published by the journal Nature, is part of the Red Dots and CARMENES projects, which previously helped uncovered Proxima Centauri.“After a very careful analysis, we are 99 percent confident that the planet is there,” according to team leader Ignasi Ribas, of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia and Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC) in Spain.“However,” he continued, “we’ll continue to observe this fast-moving star to exclude possible, but improbable, natural variations of the stellar brightness which could masquerade as a planet.”The sphere, designated Barnard’s Star b, has a mass at least 3.2 times that of Earth, and orbits its host star—a cool, low-mass red dwarf—in roughly 233 days.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.Add to that its proximity to the snow line, where water quickly condenses into solid ice, and the freezing, shadowy world could reach temperatures of -274 ℉—well below bearable conditions for humans.Previous searches for celestial bodies in this region left astronomers disappointed.This time, scientists exploited seven high-precision instruments spanning 20 years of measurements, making this “one of the largest and most extensive datasets ever used for precise radial velocity studies,” Ribas boasted.By combining archival data from other teams with new, overlapping calculations, the team collected a “huge amount of information”: a total of 771 measurements.“We have all worked very hard on this breakthrough,” co-leader Guillem Anglada Escudé, of Queen Mary University in London, said in a statement. “Follow-up observations are already underway at different observatories worldwide.”More celestial coverage on Geek.com:Astronomers Suspect Super-Earths Lurk at the Edge of Our Solar SystemDistant Object at Edge of Solar System Supports Planet X TheoryNASA Has Good News About Exoplanet Proxima b Water Vapor Detected on Potentially ‘Habitable’ PlanetMigrating Exoplanet Sculpts Disk Around Young Star in Neon Photo last_img

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