The idea that humans could live on some distant planet as an alternative to planet Earth, always seemed like a distant idea, something reserved mostly for a good science fiction movie or television show.
Yet, the technology currently available for space travel over the past decade has rocketed to new heights pushing humanity closer to the colonization of Mars and the planets beyond. Even more so, humans are eager to answer the big question, are we alone in the universe?
New technology has also allowed scientists to identify potential exoplanets that could be supporting alien life. Though that list grows every month in the scientific community, one of Earth’s nearest exoplanet neighbors, the planet orbiting Barnard's Star, has the potential chance to be hosting life.
Barnard's Star b
Called Barnard’s Star b, new research into the planet suggests that the heat created by the geothermal process on the planet could, in fact, be warming pockets of water beneath the planet’s surface.
Anyone in the space community will tell you that this phenomenon could indeed provide the planet with the factors needed for life to evolve on Barnard’s Star b.
Led by Edward Guinan and Scott Engle of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, with 15 years of data at their disposal, the research duo does believe the planet may still be too cold for liquid water, yet, there still may be subsurface oceans lurking on the planet.
Only a six light year trip from our solar system, Barnard's Star is one of the closest single stars to our own sun. Discovered in the 1970’s it wasn’t until November 2018 that researchers discovered the massive exoplanet, and it is big. Barnard's Star b is 3.2 times bigger than Earth, orbiting similarly to Mercury in our solar system.
With its frigid temperatures of minus 170 degrees Celsius, the planet resembles that of Jupiter’s Europa. So why is this place so exciting for scientists?
Yes, most of Barnard’s Star b could, in fact, be a frozen wasteland. Nevertheless, a planet of this size, called super earths to have the ability to have “extra geothermal activity”, energy that could be melting some areas of the icy wasteland.
Interestingly you do not have to look too far to witness this phenomenon. Antarctica has a similar environment with hundreds of ice covered lakes melted by heat radiating from the Earth’s own core. Researchers have even found life in these frigid environments and Barnard’s Star b could have something going on under its icy surface.
Barnard’s Star b is currently a major priority for researchers as much is still not known about the planet and most ideas about the planet are still a hypothesis.