A candidate super-Earth planet orbiting near the snow line of Barnard’s star

Journal: Nature

Published: 2018-11-14

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0677-y

Affiliations: 34

Authors: 63

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Research Highlight

Super-Earth chilling out round neighbouring star

© VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS/Getty

© VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS/Getty

A frozen super-Earth could be orbiting one of the Sun’s nearest stellar neighbours.

Astronomers have been searching for planets around Bernard’s star — the second closest star to our Sun at 6 light years away — for decades without success.

Now, a team that included researchers from the Spanish National Research Council combined 20 years of observations from seven global telescopes and spotted a periodic wobble in the light signal from Bernard’s star. This wobble could be caused by the gravitational pull of a planet at least three times as massive as the Earth, the team postulates.

Despite orbiting as close to its star as Mercury to the Sun, the planet is frozen over, with surface temperatures around −170 degrees Celsius. This puts it well outside the habitable zone in which liquid water can exist, and on the ‘snow line’ — the distance from the star beyond which even gases become solid.

Next-generation telescopes could be used to probe the properties the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

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  1. Nature 563, 365–368 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0677-y
Institutions FC
Institute for Astrophysics, University of Göttingen, Germany 0.07
Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA), CSIC, Spain 0.07
Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory (LSW), Uni Heidelberg, Germany 0.06
Institute of Astrophysics of Canarias (IAC), Spain 0.05
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE), CSIC, Spain 0.05
Centre for Astrophysics Research (CAR), UH, United Kingdom (UK) 0.05
Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM), CIS, United States of America (USA) 0.05
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), Germany 0.05
Institute for Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), Spain 0.05
School of Physical Sciences, OU, United Kingdom (UK) 0.05
Department of Astrophysics, ULL, Spain 0.04
School of Physics and Astronomy, QMUL, United Kingdom (UK) 0.04
Department of Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Villanova University, United States of America (USA) 0.03
Carnegie Observatories, CIS, United States of America (USA) 0.03
Department of Astronomy, University of Chile, Chile 0.03
UCO/Lick Observatory, United States of America (USA) 0.03
Department of Astrophysics, CSIC-INTA, Spain 0.03
Calar Alto Astronomical Observatory (CAHA), Spain 0.02
Laboratoire Univers et Particules de Montpellier (LUPM), France 0.02
Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT, Inc.), United States of America (USA) 0.02
Hamburg Observatory, UHH, Germany 0.02
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS), WIS, Israel 0.02
Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (ARI), Uni Heidelberg, Germany 0.02
Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw (OAUW), Poland 0.02
Institute of Physics, UniBE, Switzerland 0.02
MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, United States of America (USA) 0.02
Karl Schwarzschild Observatory (TLS), Germany 0.02
Department of Earth Sciences, HKU, China 0.01
School of Geosciences, TAU, Israel 0.01
Departamento de Física de la Tierra, Astronomía y Astrofísica I (FTAAI), UCM, Spain 0.01
Unit of Particle and Cosmos Physics (UPARCOS), UCM, Spain 0.01
Department of Astronomy / Observatory of Geneva, UNIGE, Switzerland 0.01
Department of Physics, HKU, China 0.01
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain 0.01

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