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Fri Jan 11, 2019, 12:25 AM

Barnard's Star Planet May Not Be Too Cold for Life After All


By Nola Taylor Redd, Space.com Contributor | January 10, 2019 05:22pm ET

- click for image -

https://img.purch.com/h/1400/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5zcGFjZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzA4Mi8xMzgvb3JpZ2luYWwvYmFybmFyZHMtc3Rhci1iLmpwZw==

An artist's depiction of the freezing surface of Barnard's Star b.
Credit: M. Kornmesser/ESO

SEATTLE One of Earth's nearest exoplanet neighbors, the planet orbiting Barnard's Star, may still have a chance at hosting life, despite its frigid temperatures.

New research suggests that heat generated by geothermal processes could warm pockets of water beneath the surface of the planet called Barnard's Star b, potentially providing havens for life to evolve. Images captured by NASA's much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope could help determine if the planet is the right size for that phenomenon to occur, and instruments coming even later in the future could identify signs of life.

"This is the best-imageable planet, the best Earth-sized one," Edward Guinan, a researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, told Space.com. Using 15 years of data, Guinan and his colleague Scott Engle, also at Villanova, determined that while the planet is too cold for liquid water, and thus probably for life, to exist on the surface, the world might still hold subsurface oceans, depending on how large it is. Such oceans could form only on a rocky world, but if the planet is a gas giant, all bets are off. [Barnard's Star b: What We Know About Nearby 'Super-Earth' Planet Candidate]

"If it's a super-Earth, it could have anything going on," Engle said.

More:
https://www.space.com/42963-barnards-star-planet-may-be-habitable.html

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