Nearby Barnard's Star hosts an icy planet with new hope for alien life

CNET | 1/10/2019 | Eric Mack
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Last year we learned Barnard's Star, the second closest star system, is circled by a frozen super-Earth. But new research finds hope that at least primitive life might have a warm enough place to survive on the otherwise chilly world.

The super-Earth Barnard b (or GJ 699 b) is also the second closest planet discovered beyond our solar system so far, at just six light-years away. Although it orbits Barnard's Star at about the same distance Mercury orbits our sun, the surface of the planet is likely very cold (-274 Fahrenheit, or -170 centigrade) because the star is a relatively dim red dwarf providing the planet with only about 2 percent of the solar energy we get from our sun.

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Watch this: Newfound frigid super-Earth found is the second-closest...

This doesn't necessarily curse Barnard b to a lifeless existence, though, according to astrophysicists from Pennsylvania's Villanova University who say the planet might have a hot liquid iron core producing geothermal energy.

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"Geothermal heating could support 'life zones' under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica," Edward Guinan, one of the researchers, said in a statement coinciding with the team's presentation Thursday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

Any life in such heat pockets would likely be pretty primitive. Scientists are also keen to check for evidence of life in subsurface oceans hidden beneath the frozen shells of Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn moon Enceladus.

"We note that...
(Excerpt) Read more at: CNET
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