(SCIENCE DAILY) – A planet has been detected orbiting Barnard's Star , a mere six light-years away. This breakthrough – announced in a paper published today in the journal Nature – is a result of the Red Dots and CARMENES projects, whose search for local rocky planets has already uncovered a new world orbiting our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri.
The planet, designated Barnard's Star b, now steps in as the second-closest known exoplanet to Earth. The gathered data indicate that the planet could be a super-Earth, having a mass at least 3.2 times that of the Earth, which orbits its host star in roughly 233 days. Barnard's Star, the planet's host star, is a red dwarf, a cool, low-mass star, which only dimly illuminates this newly-discovered world. Light from Barnard's Star provides its planet with only 2 percent of the energy the Earth receives from the Sun.
Despite being relatively close to its parent star – at a distance only 0.4 times that between Earth and the Sun – the exoplanet lies close to the snow line, the region where volatile compounds such as water can condense into solid ice. This freezing, shadowy world could have a temperature of -170℃, making it inhospitable for life as we know it.
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