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Barnard’s Star, The “Great White Whale” of Planet Hunting, Has Surrendered Its Secret

14 Nov 2018, 18:18 UTC
Barnard’s Star, The “Great White Whale” of Planet Hunting, Has Surrendered Its Secret
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Barnard’s Star is the closest single star to our sun, and the most fast moving. It has long been attractive to planet hunters because it is so close and so bright, especially in the infared section of the spectrum. But until now, the exoplanets of this “great white whale” have avoided detection.

Astronomers have found that Barnard’s star — a very close, fast-moving, and long studied red dwarf — has a super-Earth sized planet orbiting just beyond its habitable zone.
The discovery relied on data collected over many years using the tried-and-true radial velocity method, which searches for wobbles in the movement of the host star.
But this detection was something big for radial velocity astronomers because Barnard-b was among the smallest planet ever found using the technique, and it was the furthest out from its host star as well — orbiting its star every 233 days.
For more than a century, astronomers have studied Barnard’s star as the most likely place to find an extrasolar planet.
Ultimately, said Ignasi Rablis of Spain’s Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia, lead author of the paper in journal Nature, the discovery was the result of 771 observations, an extremely high ...

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