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Frozen super-Earth discovered six light-years away
Astronomers have discovered a frozen planet with a mass more than three times that of the Earth.
It is orbiting a star only six light-years away.
According to the researchers from Queen Mary University of London, the potentially rocky planet, known as Barnard’s star b, is a ‘super-Earth’ and orbits around its host star once every 233 days.
The findings, published in the journal Nature, show the planet lies at a distant region from the star known as the ‘snow line’ which is well beyond the habitable zone in which liquid water, and possibly life, could exist.
The planet’s surface temperature is estimated to be around -170°C . However, if the planet has a substantial atmosphere the temperature could be higher and conditions more hospitable.
The planet is probably dimly lit by its star and slightly colder than Saturn. The researchers believe that it is an icy desert with no liquid water, a hostile environment where the average surface temperature is around minus-274 degrees Fahrenheit.
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.
At nearly six light-years away Barnard’s star is the next closest star to the Sun after the Alpha Centauri triple system.
It is a type of faint, low-mass star called a red dwarf. Red dwarfs are considered to be the best places to look for exoplanet candidates, which are planets outside our solar system.
Barnard’s star b is the second closest known exoplanet to our Sun. The closest — Proxima b — lies just over four light-years from Earth and orbits around the red dwarf Proxima Centauri.
The researchers used the radial velocity method during the observations that led to the discovery of Barnard’s star b. The technique detects wobbles in a star which are likely to be caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet. These wobbles affect the light coming from the star.