The astronomical team that found the nearest exoplanet at Proxima Centauri has done it again with the reported detection of a super-Earth orbiting Barnard's Star, the second-closest star system to our own. Their search was also responsible for unveiling Proxima b, which orbits the nearest star beyond the sun, red dwarf Proxima Centauri. However, a massive atmosphere could potentially warm the planet, making conditions more hospitable to life.
Professor Carole Haskell, head of astronomy at the Open University, said it was possible aliens could be discovered. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits around another star. It was discovered as part of a project to find rocky planets around red dwarfs and the instruments used to do this-including the CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical Échelle Spectrographs)-are specially created to do this.
This is not the first time that astronomers have thought they had found a planet around Barnard's Star.
The Jupiter-mass planets around Barnard's star were no more. Hundreds of exoplanets have been found by looking for periodic Doppler shifts in the frequency of starlight.
While an exciting (and historic) find, you can forget about Barnard's Star b bearing any resemblance to our planet.
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His team made observations from two ground-based telescopes in Chile and Spain. "The combination of all data led to a total of 771 measurements", Ribas said. It orbits its red star every 233 days near the snow-line, a distance where water freezes.
There's a chance that the oscillations are caused by something that affects the way the star shines in a periodic way, such as star spots. Which brings us to our new find. Madhusudhan isn't quite so certain: "If confirmed, this will be very good". If this were the case with the newly spotted planet, it would have a mass of 3.2 times that of Earth, placing it in the super-Earth category.
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.
These questions could be answered by a future instrument that could take direct images of close-up planets, such as NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) telescope, which is slated to launch in the 2020s.
'We knew we would have to be patient. "It's really hard to tell", Ribas says.
A bone-crushingly cold Super Earth has been discovered approximately six light-years away from our Sun, a new study shows. After crunching the numbers of decades' worth of data, the existence of Barnard's Star b seems fairly certain-though the ever-cautious Red Dots team is still calling it a planet candidate. The new research included many archived observations from as far back 1997 as well as new ones from telescopes like Magellan, Keck, the Very Large Telescope, and HARPS. "This would be a dream. If it has any water or gas this is probably in solid form so that´s why we call it frozen", said Ribas. Though it is extremely close, Barnard's star is too faint to be seen with the naked eye'. Planets around red dwarfs tend to skew to Earth-size - bigger planets around these kinds of stars are more rare - and red dwarfs are by far the most common kind of star in the galaxy, outnumbering more massive stars like the Sun by more than five to one. As a result, scientists estimate its surface temperature is around -150C. "I'm willing to guess there are lots like this nearby", he says.