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New Planet Discovered Six Light-Years Away Orbiting Barnard's Star

The New Planet Was Dubbed 'Barnard's Star B'

November 14, 2018

Astronomers have discovered a new planet that’s only six light-years away from Earth. This new planet, dubbed ‘Barnard’s star b’ is a frozen exoplanet that orbits Barnard’s star, which is the closest solitary star to the sun. The discovery was made by piecing together 20 years of data from seven instruments.

The ‘Barnard’s star b’ is the second closest known exoplanet to Earth, after an previous discovery found an exoplanet orbiting in the three-star Proxima Centauri system. However, this new discovery is quite special as it was found in Barnard’s star is seen by many as the “great white whale of planet hunting,” according to Paul Butler, the co-author of the study that found the new planet.

An exoplanet is simply a planet outside of the sun’s solar system. This planet, located six light-years away from Earth, is dimly lit and slightly colder than Saturn. According to researchers, the planet is made up of an icy desert with no liquid water. The environment is hostile, and the planet has no chance of sustaining life, as surface temperatures average around negative 274 degrees Fahrenheit.

While not the closest known exoplanet, ‘Barnard’s star b’ is the closest exoplanet found in a single star system. The star it orbits is categorized as an M dwarf star, and is the same distance to this planet as our sun is to Mercury. It takes ‘Barnard’s star b’ 233 days to orbit around the star. The new planet was named in honor of astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard, a pioneer in astronomy.

This planet was discovered using a radial velocity technique, which was pioneered by Paul Butler. The co-author of this discovery used the velocity changes of the host star in order to discover this new planet. While the planet is still six light-years away, this discover could lead to further missions and telescope viewings, in order to gain more information on ‘Barnard’s star b’ and other new potential planets.