Super-Earth Discovered Around Barnard's Star

Martin Kornmesser  ESO

Martin Kornmesser ESO

This particular planet is orbiting Barnard's star, the closest solitary star to our sun, making it the second closest known exoplanet to us - the first being the one found orbiting in the three-star Proxima Centauri system. Only the Alpha Centauri triple system is closer.

At almost 6 light-years away, the star is the next closest star to the Sun after the Alpha Centauri triple stellar system.

In order to find the planet the astronomers employed a method called radial velocity, using sensitive instruments that were able to detect tiny wobbles caused by the gravity of the orbiting planet.

The research team says that the newly found planet's characteristics make it an excellent target for direct imaging using the next generation of instruments such as NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and possibly the European Space Agency's Gaia astrometry mission.

SelectLanguage To Read in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi or Arabic. "We now have decades of archival data at our disposal".

The exoplanet was found after stitching together 20 years of data, including 771 individual measurements, from seven instruments. "This signal implies that the Barnard´s star approaches and moves away from us at about 1.2 metres per second - approximately the walking speed of a person - and it is best explained by a planet orbiting", Ribas added.

It is 3.2 times greater than the Earth mass and orbits a red dwarf five times less than the Sun.

"I hope we can contribute to more discoveries like this - small planets around nearby stars", Teske said, "to ultimately help answer the question, how unique is Earth?" It is mainly sun, the star-Gazer at the sky, Thousands of lights. "A planet in the "habitable" or surface liquid water zone of Barnard's star would have a period between 10 and 40 days, much shorter than the detected planet at 233 days".

The largest changes in a star's radial velocity will come when the plane of the planet's orbit is aligned with Earth.

The find makes it even more clear that most of the stars we see in the night sky probably have at least one world circling them, increasing the likelihood we aren't alone in the vast universe.

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. The temperature of Barnard star b is far too cold to support any life on that.

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

But the search for evidence of planets around this famous red dwarf star over the past 50 years has been unsuccessful, until now. "This is the result of a large collaboration organized in the context of the Red Dots project, which is why it has contributions from teams all over the world including semi-professional astronomers coordinated by the American Association of Variable Star Observers".

"These major observing campaigns gave us enough observations to confirm the planetary signal with several independent datasets and with the variety of different signal analysis tools that we had built at the University of Hertfordshire", said co-author Dr Fabo Feng. Barnard's star a little earlier than has interested scientists, however, because the minimum distance of six light years, the experts examined it.

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