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 Share
Heidelberg University (Uni Heidelberg), Germany 0.08
University of Göttingen, Germany 0.07
Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA), CSIC, Spain 0.07
Institute of Astrophysics of Canarias (IAC), Spain 0.05
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE), CSIC, Spain 0.05
University of Hertfordshire (UH), United Kingdom (UK) 0.05
Earth and Planets Laboratory, CIS, United States of America (USA) 0.05
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), Germany 0.05
The Open University (OU), United Kingdom (UK) 0.05
Institute for Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), Spain 0.05
University of La Laguna (ULL), Spain 0.04
Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), United Kingdom (UK) 0.04
Carnegie Observatories, CIS, United States of America (USA) 0.03
University of Chile, Chile 0.03
Villanova University, United States of America (USA) 0.03
Centre of Astrobiology (CAB), CSIC-INTA, Spain 0.03
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), United States of America (USA) 0.03
University of Hamburg (UHH), Germany 0.02
Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), Spain 0.02
Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS), Israel 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
Calar Alto Astronomical Observatory (CAHA), Spain 0.02
The University of Hong Kong (HKU), China 0.02
University of Warsaw (UW), Poland 0.02
University of Bern (UniBE), Switzerland 0.02
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States of America (USA) 0.02
Karl Schwarzschild Observatory (TLS), Germany 0.02
Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel 0.01
University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland 0.01
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain 0.01

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