A real-life Hoth is just a couple parsecs away. Astronomers have discovered a frozen super-Earth in the second closest star system to Earth that might resemble the famous snowy world from the Star Wars universe. The planet orbits Barnard’s star, which is just six light-years away and the closest single star to us. (The three-star Alpha Centauri system is closer at just over 4 light-years and includes the closest known planet beyond our solar system, Proxima b.) The find makes it even more clear that most of the stars we see in the night sky probably have at least one world circling them, increasing the likelihood we aren’t alone in the vast universe. “After a very careful analysis, we are over 99 percent confident that the planet is there,” said Ignasi Ribas from Spain’s Institute of Space Studies, in a statement. Ribas is lead author of a report outlining the new discovery published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The newfound globe is called Barnard’s star b, or GJ 699 b, and is a little more than three times the mass of Earth with a surface temperature of -150 Celsius (-238 Fahrenheit). That weather forecast might actually make Hoth look tropical, on second thought. There is hope the planet could have a thick atmosphere trapping some heat, but astronomers say it’s located beyond the “snow line” where any water on the surface is probably frozen. The planet actually orbits much closer to Barnard’s star than Earth does to the sun, but because… [Read full story]
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