'Earth-like' planet found orbiting Earth’s neighbouring star

Barnard's star

Lacking atmosphere, its temperature is likely to be about minus 170 degrees Celsius, which makes it unlikely that the planet can sustain liquid water on the surface. Alpha Centauri's triple-star system (including Alpha Centauri A and B, plus Proxima Centauri) are the only stars nearer.

Barnard's Star b is six light-years from Earth. That's because Barnard's Star provides the frigid planet with only 2 per cent of the energy that the sun provides Earth.

While an exciting (and historic) find, you can forget about Barnard's Star b bearing any resemblance to our planet. The planet, Proxima Centauri b, is just 4.2 light years from Earth.

A slew of telescopes on three continents have set their sights on Barnard's Star, allowing researchers to accumulate some 800 observations over the course of 20 years. Previously, an exoplanet was found orbiting in the three-star Proxima Centauri system. Which brings us to our new find.

The new detection was made by a team of scientists working on an astronomy collaboration called Red Dots.

This would place the planet at the so-called snow-line of the star, where it islikely to be a frozen world.

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? Now, an worldwide team led by researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) has found a cold Super-Earth orbiting around the Barnard´s star, the second closest star system to Earth.

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"Barnard's star is an infamous object among astronomers and exoplanet scientists, as it was one of the first stars where planets were initially claimed but later proven to be incorrect", said study co-author Guillem Anglada Escudé, from Queen Mary's School of Physics and Astronomy. In the 1960s, the Dutch astronomer Peter van de Kamp, working in the United States, published his evidence for a planetary companion, based on perturbations in the motion of the star. "Barnard's star is the "great white whale" of planet hunting". But more measurements were required. Most exoplanets, including the thousands identified by NASA's recently retired Kepler space telescope, were found using the "transit" technique: looking for a periodic dip in starlight as a planet passes in front. For most of the past hundred years, the only way was the astrometric technique, in which astronomers look for the host star to wobble relative to background stars, Butler said. 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.

The magnitude of the wobble reveals the minimum mass of the planet that is responsible for the motion.

"Much of the universe is still a complete mystery", Ribas said. This means a year on the newly discovered planet is shorter it is on Earth. "This is going to be one of the best candidates", says astronomer Nikku Madhusudhan of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not part of the discovery team. That gave them enough data to detect the small signal of the planet. If the existence of Barnard's Star b is confirmed, it may indicate there are other, smaller worlds orbiting this ancient star.

"When we re-analyzed all the combined measurements, a clear signal arose at a period of 233 days".

These methods haven't always been available to astronomers searching for exoplanets.

"After a very careful analysis, we are over 99 percent confident that the planet is there", said lead author Ignasi Ribas of Spain's Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia in a statement.

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