Large Frozen Planet Found In Star Only 6 Light Years Away

An artist's impression of the surface of a Super Earth planet that has been discovered orbiting the closest single star to our solar system in a handout

What's going on: Scientists have discovered a new planet - called Super Earth - that is much bigger and colder than our world but has some of the same characteristics as our planet, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Barnard's star B is now the second-closest known exoplanet to our Sun, after Proxima B that circles around Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf.

The team's results appear online in the November 14, 2018 issue of the journal Nature. Barnard's Star b is drawn around the parent star for 233 days, being from it a distance amounting to only 0.4 percent of the distance separating the Earth and the Sun. First is Proxima Centauri b orbiting Proxima Centauri and which is about four light years.

Artist's impression of the surface of the candidate planet orbiting Barnard's star.

"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".

In the absence of an atmosphere, the planet's temperature is likely to be about -150 °C, which makes it unlikely that the planet can support liquid water on its surface.

The researchers were looking for the smallest change in the radiation spectrum of stars that could indicate the fluctuations in its trajectory caused by the influence of gravity of large rocky planet.

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"After a very careful analysis, we are over 99 percent confident that the planet is there, since this is the model that best fits our observations", said Ribas.

Located six light-years away from the Sun, Barnard's star is the second-closest star system to the Sun after the Alpha Centauri triple system; it is also the closest single star to the Sun.

Follow-up observations of the newly discovered exoplanet are now underway. It is an extremely faint red dwarf, being just 3 per cent as bright as the Sun. The researchers re-examined archive data obtained over a 20-year period, and added new observations with the latest generation of instruments.

One light year is equal to the distance travelled by light in one year so any visible light from the newly discovered planet is six years old. The researchers studied the planet by combining measurements from several high-precision instruments mounted on telescopes around the world.

It's really near and therefore if you have the hope - like I do - of eventually seeing these planets to study them in detail we have to start with the immediate ones.

For astronomers, it is a "cold and dark world".

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