Astronomers have found a planet in a circle around one of the nearest stars of the Sun, the star of Barnard.
This Barnard star is a "super-Earth" with a mass of at least 3.2 times that of the Earth, and orbits its star host once every 233 days.
The study, conducted by the Queen Mary University in London, and the Institute of Discus Estudis Espacials de Catalunya and the Space Science Institute / CSIC in Spain, shows that the planet lies in a distant region of the star known as the "snow line." This is far from a living area in which there may be liquid water, and perhaps life.
When scientists quantified the surface temperature of the planet, they found that the planet's temperature was about -170 degrees Celsius. That is, it is likely to be a frozen world, which is unwavering for a life similar to the Earth. But if the planet has a significant atmosphere, the temperature could be higher and the conditions potentially more hospitable.
Dr Guillem Anglada Escudé, of the Queen Mary's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "The Burner star is an unknown object among scientists from astronomers and exoplanets, because it is one of the first stars where it was originally claimed that the planets, but later proved themselves as inaccurate. I hope that we have this time well. "
In almost six light years, Barnard's star is the next closest star to the Sun after the triple system of Alpha Centauri. After that the star of Barnard b is the second nearest known exoplanet of our Sun.
Scientists have used the radial velocity method during observations that led to the discovery of the star of Barnard b. As the star moves to Earth, its spectrum appears slightly shifted towards blue and, as it moves, shifts to red.
This is the first time scientists have used this technique to detect a planet that is so small that it is far from its star host.
However, scientists reacted with archived data received a time frame of 20 years and included new perceptions of the latest instrument age, specifically the CARMENES spectrometer in Spain, the ESO / HARPS instrument in Chile and the HARPS-H instrument in the Canary Islands.
Dr. Ignacio Ribas of the Institute of Disparities of Catalonia and the Institute of Space Science in Spain said: "After a very careful analysis, we are over 99 percent confident that the planet is there because this is the model that best suits our observations, we must remain cautious and gather more data to fix the case in the future. "
Additional observations to increase the confidence of this result are already under way in various observatories, and the system is an excellent candidate for observation by the next generation of instruments specially designed to directly capture exoplanets, such as the NASA's planned infrared telescope (WFIRST ).
The study includes contributions from Professor Richard Nelson and student-researcher John Strakan, two members of the Queen Mary's School of Physics and Astronomy.
This research, published in the journal Nature, was partially supported by the UK Science and Technology Council and Queen Mary University University in London for postgraduate studies.