An atypical study led by a group of scientists from the Villanova University, United States, found that 'Super Earth’, the newly discovered cold exoplanet has the potential to harbour alien life. Barnard b (GJ 699 b), the frozen planet, which is orbiting around the red dwarf Barnard, is just six light years away from earth. Having a minimum of 3.2 Earth masses, the 'Super Earth' orbits the red star in every 233 days near the snow line, a distance where water freezes. After a prolonged study for nearly 20 years, researchers confirmed the existence of the planet.
Briefing about their ongoing study about the existence of alien in the newly discovered exoplanet, the research team said though Barnard b or the Super Earth is expected to be extremely cold with temperatures around -170 degrees Celsius it could still support the alien life if its core is made of hot iron or nickel. It’s enhanced geothermal activity could also allow the alien life to flourish under its surface.
"Geothermal heating could support 'life zones' under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica," said Astrophysicist Edward Guinan, adding 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".
In an apparent reference to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, scientists further said if water is present on the planet, geothermal heating could result in liquid water ‘life zones’. Europa is heated by tidal heating rather than from geothermal energy. Guinan also expressed his hope to photograph Super Earth Barnard b by future very large telescopes.
The findings were first announced at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Society (AAS) in Seattle. "Such observations will shed light on the nature of the planet's atmosphere, surface, and potential habitability," he said.
"This supports previous studies based on Kepler Mission data, inferring that planets can be very common throughout the galaxy, even numbering in the tens of billions," said co-author Scott Engle from the varsity.
"Also, Barnard's Star is about twice as old as the Sun - about nine billion years old compared 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," Engle concluded.
The discovery of Barnard's star b is significant because the two nearest star systems to the Sun are now known to host planets. The closest star to the Bernard b is Alpha Centauri around four light years away.