Astronomers are discovering a frozen supertier near our Solar System
An international team discovered a frozen Super Earth circling around the second nearest star system or the closest star of our Sun, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The cold planet revolves around the star of Bernard, our fourth star nearest neighbor, after the triple system of Alpha Centauri stars. Bernard's star, just six light-years from Earth, is smaller and older than our Sun and is one of the least active red dwarfs.
Astronomers have been collecting data from seven instruments, including the Planet Finding spectrograph on the Magellan II telescope at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington.
"After a very thorough analysis, we have over 99% certainty that the planet exists" – said the main author of the article, Ignasi Ribas, from the Institute of Spatial Studies of Catalonia in Spain.
Called Barnard's 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 water would freeze. Researchers estimated the surface temperature minus 150 degrees Celsius.
Using the radial velocity technique, astronomers detected small movements of the planet's gravity in the orbit of the star.
They said the characteristics of the newly discovered planet made it an excellent target for direct imaging using the next generation of instruments such as the Wide Field Infrared Inspection Telescope (WFIRST) from NASA.