Scientists discover a 'Super-Earth' orbiting Sun's closest star

Cristina Cross
November 18, 2018

Astronomers have discovered a Super-Earth orbiting around Barnard's star, a red dwarf located about six light-years from the Sun.

That exoplanet, called Proxima b, orbits around the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri.

This was reported in the journal Nature. The search was performed using the method of radial velocities. That designation is held by the roughly Earth-size world Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri, one of the Alpha Centauri trio. Following the discovery of the new exoplanet, four planetary systems have been found at a distance of up to ten light years from our solar system and 14 planetary systems up to 15 light-years away.

The planet is orbiting a nearby star.

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.

This is the first time that this technique has been used to detect a planet this small so far away from its host star. An global team has announced that it has found good evidence of the existence of a frozen exoplanet that is at least three times larger than the Earth and which moves around nearby Barnard's star, about six light years away from our own planet.

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The newfound planet candidate lies 0.4 AU from its host star and completes one orbit every 233 Earth days, according to the new study. Smaller and older than our Sun, it is among the least active red dwarfs known.

Barnard's Star b is the second nearest to the Sun exoplanet.

Guinan said the team uncovered the planet's existence over years of observations using Earth- and space-based telescopes.

"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. These wobbles affect the light coming from the star. Redoubling their efforts, Vogt's team added 45 more radial velocity measurements from the newly commissioned Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope at UC's Lick Observatory, 39 velocities from the Carnegie Institution for Science's Planet Finder Spectrograph (PFS) on the Magellan II Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and more data that became publicly available in recent years from HARPS.

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.

"We have all worked very hard on this breakthrough", co-leader Guillem Anglada Escudé, of Queen Mary University in London, said in a statement.

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