Kavya NarayananJan 17, 2019 17:59:05 IST
Just a mere six light-years away from Earth, a frozen exoplanet discovered recently by scientists, could harbour alien life, a new study suggests.
The planet – called 'Barnard b' – was confirmed as really existing after nearly 20 years of observations only recently. Barnard b is thought to be freezing cold, with surface temperatures around -150ºC and a molten core made of iron or nickel.
The feature of Barnard b that shows promise to support life, though, is its geothermal activity. The 'Super Earth' Barnard b orbits Bernard's Star within the range that indicates to astronomers that it might support life.
More importantly, the planet also appears to have high levels of geothermic heating and geochemical activity under its surface – similar to lakes found under Antarctic ice shelves. The surface temperatures on Bernard b and Jupiter's moon Europa are very similar, researchers think, as both are influenced by the same phenomenon of 'tidal heating', where liquid oceans under their icy surfaces influence the temperatures on its surface.
Bernard's Star is roughly 9 billion years old, scientists estimate – twice as old as our Sun.
The Super-Earth Bernard b orbiting the star could be observed someday using 'very large telescopes' to study its atmosphere, surface and geothermal activity.
When these observations are finally made, the researchers hope to find more clarity on whether the Super-Earth really does support life.
Until then, chance-discoveries of mysterious radio wave signals from outer space will have to do.