The exoplanet Barnard’s Star b might be frigid, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t support life.
At least, that’s the claim of a team of astrophysicists from Villanova University. They say that while the surface temperature of Barnard’s Star b — the second-closest known exoplanet to Earth — is likely around -170 degrees Celsius (-274 degrees Fahrenheit), it could still host primitive life — as long at it has the right kind of core.
The scientists presented their research during a press conference on Thursday at a meeting of the American Astronomy Society (AAS). They claim that a large, hot ironcore could allow the planet to host life despite its frigid surface temperature.
“Geothermal heating could support ‘life zones’ under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica,” researcher Edward Guinan said in a press release. “We note that the surface temperature on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is similar to Barnard b but, because of tidal heating, Europa probably has liquid oceans under its icy surface.”
The researchers are hopeful that future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will provided astrophysicists with a better look at Barnard’s Star b.
“Such observations will shed light on the nature of the planet’s atmosphere, surface, and potential habitability,” Guinan said.