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16 November 2018, 04:02 | Justin Tyler
The image shows an artist’s impression of Barnard’s star b and its dim host star
"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".
The team was looking for signs that Barnard's star was shifting back and forth due to the gravitational pull of a planet, a planet-hunting approach called the radial velocity method. Barnard's star b completes an orbit around its sun every 233 days.
While an exciting (and historic) find, you can forget about Barnard's Star b bearing any resemblance to our planet. Even though the planet is closer to its star than Earth is to the sun, Barnard's Star is very small and cold by comparison.
Although Proxima Centauri b has a surface possibly warm enough for liquid water, the chances of finding life there are reduced by hostile X-rays and ultraviolet radiation pouring out of its star.
Barnard's Star b is six light-years from Earth.
From the phenomenal success of the Kepler mission and a proliferation of ground-based telescopes, we now know that planets are common in our galaxy. The planet, Proxima Centauri b, is just 4.2 light years from Earth. The planet, Barnard's Star b, is the second-closest planet outside of our solar system to Earth, known in the astronomical community as an exoplanet, per USA Today. This is because Barnard's star is in the class of M dwarf stars, cooler and less massive than our sun. 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. As it moves towards Earth its light appears shifted towards the blue part of the spectrum and, as it moves away, it appears shifted towards the red.
Graphic representation of the relative distances to the nearest stars from the Sun.
It is, however, closer to its parent star at a distance only 0.4 times of that between Earth and the Sun. 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. One thing astronomers are confident about, though, is that this new planet is not habitable.
The researchers used the radial velocity method for their detection. But despite its snug proximity, the planet still sits beyond the chilly star's "snow line" - the region where water and other volatiles start turning into ice.
"It´s important because it´s really our nextdoor neighbour and we like to meet our neighbours in general", Ignasi Ribas, from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia and Spain´s Institute of Space Sciences, told AFP. Their analysis suggested there might be a signal of something orbiting with a 230 day period, but the data suffered from what the researchers term "very poor sampling".
"Difficult detections such as this one warrant confirmation by independent methods and research groups", Rodrigo Diaz, an astronomer at the University of Buenos Aires who was not involved in the research, wrote in a commentary for Nature. "Van de Kamp is a true pioneer in extrasolar planets".
"Future space-based telescopes like WFIRST might be able to observe reflected light from Barnard's star off of the planet, and thus tell us something about the composition of the surface and/or atmosphere of the planet", Teske said.
Astronomers have since 1997 collected a large number of measurements on the oscillation movement of the star.
But despite their best efforts, astronomers elsewhere could find no evidence of van de Kamp's worlds.
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