Astronomers believe that the recently discovered Barnard b, a super-Earth Only six light-years away, it could sustain life.
Barnard B was announced in November; orbit around Barnard's star, the lonely star closest to our sun. This makes it the second exoplanet closest to us. Previously, there was an exoplanet orbiting in the Proxima Centauri three-star system, only 4.2 light-years away.
Although Barnard b is more than three times the mass of Earth, is frozen, which does not sound very encouraging to sustain life.
The planet is probably little illuminated by its star and is a bit colder than Saturn. Researchers believe it is an icy desert without liquid water, a hostile environment where the average temperature of the surface is around -274 degrees Fahrenheit (-170 Celsius).
But astrophysicists at Villanova University Edward Guinan and Scott Engle announced on Thursday that they believe that there could be life in an unusual way on the frozen planet. The announcement was made during the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.
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Beneath its frozen surface, Barnard b could have a hot core and liquid iron and nickel, what could support a primitive life with geothermal activity.
"The geothermal heating could support 'life zones' below its surface, similar to the subsurface lakes found in Antarctica," Guinan said. "We note that the surface temperature in Jupiter's icy moon Europa is similar to that of Barnard b, but due to the warming of the tides, Europe probably has liquid oceans under its icy surface. "
Guinan also believes that the telescopes of the future could see Barnard more closely.. This would make it one of the only exoplanets the size of the Earth nearby that could be photographed.
"Such observations will shed light on the nature of the atmosphere, the surface and the potential habitability of the planet," he added.