W have telescopes watching the skies, machines computing very complicated measurements, and hundreds of antennas listening to the whispers coming from space, but, above all, astronomy is a fascinating science, and a recent discovery proves that, once again. Researchers found a super-Earth exoplanet orbiting Barnard’s star, the second-closest one to Earth.
Peter van Kamp became obsessed with Barnard’s star and its subtle wobble in 1938 when he was named as the new director at Pennsylvania’s Sproul Observatory. There he spent endless hours finding tiny variations in the star’s images. On April 18, 1963, he announced that, according to his accurate calculations, Barnard’s star had two gas giants orbiting around him. The scientific community believed him and, for a decade, experts celebrated the discovery of the first two planets outside the solar system.
In 1973, using much more precise technology, George Gatewood and Heinrich Eichhorn demonstrated that these planets did not exist.
Scientists Found A Super-Earth Exoplanet Orbiting Barnard’s Star, The Second-Closest One To Us
An international team of researchers coordinated by the Spanish National Research Council have regularly observed Barnard’s star with high-precision spectrometers.
“Spectrometers are used to measure the Doppler effect. When an object moves away from us, the light we see turns slightly reddish. On the other hand, when the star approaches us, the light turns blue,” explained Ignasi Ribas, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council and the director of the IEEC. “After a very careful analysis, we have more than 99% confidence that the planet is there, as this is the model that best fits our observations. However, we must remain cautious and collect more data to confirm this in the future, as natural variations in stellar brightness could produce effects similar to those detected,” he added.
“This discovery means an impulse to continue searching for exoplanets in our closest stellar neighbors. In other words, the hope that we will eventually meet one who has the right conditions to house life is growing stronger every day,” said Cristina Rodriguez-Lopez, also a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council