As per a latest study, the recently discovered super-Earth exoplanet which is orbiting around the dwarf Barnard (the second closest star to Earth) has a potential to support life. However, Barnard b completes its orbit around the red star in 233 days close to snow line which is roughly the same distance that Mercury orbits our sun, a distance where water freezes and has a mass equal to 3.2 times of Earth. The researchers from the Villanova University said that Barnanrd b could still have the potential to harbour primitive life if it has a large, hot iron or nickel core and enhanced geothermal activity.
Edward Guinan, Astrophysicist said, "Geothermal heating could 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 similar to Barnard b but because of tidal heating, Europa probably has liquid oceans under its icy surface’’.
‘’Although very faint, it may be possible for Barnard b to be imaged by future very large telescopes. Such observations will shed light on the nature of the planet's atmosphere, surface, and potential habitabilit’’, Guinan added.
"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’’.
The results were announced at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Society in Seattle.
So, the bottom line is that as per the new study the nearby exoplanet Barnard b (or GJ 699 b) may support primitive life if it has a heat source other than its dim sun and enhanced geothermal activity.