New paper indicates potential for primitive life on icy Barnard b super-earth planet if geothermal activity exists

phys.org | 1/17/2019 | Staff
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Barnard b (or GJ 699 b) is a recently discovered Super-Earth planet orbiting Barnard's Star, making it the second nearest star system to the Earth. Although likely cold (-170 degrees centigrade), it could still have the potential to harbor primitive life if it has a large, hot iron/nickel core and enhanced geothermal activity. That was a conclusion announced by Villanova University Astrophysicists Edward Guinan and Scott Engle at a January 10 press conference held at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Society (AAS) in Seattle, WA.

The announcement was based on findings from a paper titled, "X-Ray, UV, Optical Irradiances and Age of Barnard's Star's New Super Earth Planet – 'Can Life Find a Way' on such a Cold Planet?", co-authored by Guinan, Scott Engle and Ignasi Ribas, Director of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), and Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC).

Geothermal - Heating - Life - Zones - Surface

"Geothermal heating could support "life zones" under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica," Guinan said. "We note that the surface temperature on Jupiter's icy moon Europa is similar to Barnard b but, because of tidal heating, Europa probably has liquid oceans under its icy surface."

The discovery of Barnard's Star b was announced in November 2018 in the academic journal Nature. An international team of researchers led by Ribas of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), and Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), which included Guinan and Engle, based its analysis on 18 years of observations combined with newly acquired data.

Barnard - Star - B - Mass - Times

Barnard's Star b, with a mass just over three times that of the Earth, orbits Barnard's...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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