New 'super-earth' discovered orbiting star nearest to Sun

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : In an attempt to explore the sky, astronomers have discovered a frozen planet which weighs three times the earth. It is orbiting the closest solitary star to the Sun and scientists termed it as 'Super Earth'. Read the article to know about this strange rocky planet which orbits around its host star once every 233 days.

Also known as Barnard's star b, the earth-like planet well beyond the habitable zone in which liquid water, and possibly life, could exist, researchers said. 

The super-Earth's surface temperature is estimated to be around minus 170 degrees Celsius, meaning it is likely to be a frozen world which is uninviting to Earth-like life, scientists say.

But, if the planet has a substantial atmosphere the temperature could be higher and conditions potentially more hospitable. 

"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. Hopefully we got it right this time," said Guillem Anglada Escude from Queen Mary's School of Physics and Astronomy. 

Researchers say that it is nearly six light-years away, next closest star to the Sun after the Alpha Centauri triple system. 

The star has low mass, faint in color and termed as red dwarf. The kind of dwarf stars are best areas to search for exoplanet candidates, which are planets outside our solar system. Barnard's star b is the second closest known exoplanet to our Sun. 

In order to discover super-earth, scientists used the radial velocity method which wobbles in a star which is likely to be caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet. 

It is the first time that this technique has been used to detect a planet this small so far away from its host star. 

The findings and complete observations have been published in the journal Nature.