A study revealed that the recently discovered cold super-Earth exoplanet which orbits around the red dwarf Barnard, is the second closest star system to Earth and it has the potential to harbour primitive life.

Some researchers from the Villanova University in the US said- Barnard b (or GJ 699 b) is a super-Earth that consists of a minimum of 3.2 Earth masses. It orbits its red star every 233 days near the snow-line, which is a distance where water freezes. Although it would be cold (-170 degrees centigrade), it might still have the potential to harbour primitive life if it proves to show up the presence of a large, hot iron or nickel core which comes with enhanced geothermal activity.

Edward Guinan, an Astrophysicist at the varsity, said- “Geothermal heating might support ‘life zones’ under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica. We note that the surface temperature on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is very much similar to Barnard b, but due to tidal heating, Europa has liquid oceans under its icy surface probably. Such observations will shed light on the nature of the planet’s atmosphere, surface, as well as its potential habitability.

The results of the study were announced at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Society (AAS) in Seattle. Although a very faint possible, it can’t be ignored that future’s very large telescopes are considering Barnard b, 

The most significant aspect of the discovery of Barnard’s star b is the two nearest star systems to the Sun which are now being considered as host planets.

The co-author Scott Engle from the varsity said- “This supports previous studies that were based on Kepler Mission data, and it can be inferred that the planets can be very common throughout the galaxy, even numbering in the tens of billions. Also, Barnard’s Star is about twice as old as the Sun, which means it is about nine billion years old in comparison to 4.6 billion years for the Sun. The universe has been producing Earth-size planets far longer than we, or even the Sun itself, have existed.

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