Astronomers discover a frozen supertierra near our solar system
An international team discovered a frozen Super Earth that circled the next closest star system or near the star to our Sun, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The cold planet revolves around Bernard's star, our fourth closest neighbor in general, following Alpha Centauri's triple star system. The Bernard star, only six light years from the earth, is smaller and older than our Sun and is one of the least active red dwarfs known.
Astronomers sucked data from seven instruments, including the Planet Finding spectrograph at the Magellan II telescope at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC.
"After a very careful analysis, we have more than 99% confidence that the planet is there," said the main author of the article Ignasi Ribas of the Department of Space Research in Catalonia in Spain.
Called Barnard star b, the planet has at least 3.2 times the earth's mass and circles its star every 233 days at a distance where the water would freeze. The researchers estimated a surface temperature of minus 150 degrees Celsius.
Using the radial velocity technique, the astronomers discovered the small movements that the gravity of the planet induces in the star's path.
They said that the characteristics of the newly discovered planet made it an excellent target for direct formation using next-generation instruments such as WFIRST (Wide Field Infrared Inspection Telescope) from NASA.