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Super Earth
An artist's impression of Barnard's star bImage courtesy of ESO/M. Kornmesser

Scientists have discovered a ‘Super Earth’ just six light years away

How do we sign up for an immediate transfer to Barnard’s star b?

If the recent news of a potential alien spacecraft entering our solar system wasn’t enough, it now looks likely that there could even be a bigger, better human civilisation not so far away from us – so get excited (or slightly scared), people.

After 20 years of careful academic observation surrounding one of Earth’s nearest neighbouring stars, scientists now have reason to believe that there might be what has been described as a ‘super-Earth’ just six light years away from our planet. Barnard’s star, the red dwarf in question, has been under investigation by astrophysicists in search of ‘exoplanets’ (planets outside our solar system) at the Institute of Space Studies in Catalonia, who have now proposed that we might have such a planet right on our celestial doorstep – confirming their findings in a paper published in Nature.

In light of their discovery, researchers have named the planet ‘Barnard’s star b’, with Ignasi Ribas, the lead scientist of the research team, stating that “after a very careful analysis, we are 99 per cent confident that the planet is there”. It has been dubbed a ‘super’ Earth because it has an overall mass larger than the Earth itself and is at least 3.2 times the size, with a year equating to 233 days, Motherboard reports.

But what does it all mean exactly? Could we be meeting ourselves from a parallel universe sooner than we think? Unfortunately, no… the Independent has also reported that the planet is located beyond what is known as the “snow line”, which is the point at which liquid water or any chances of life could possibly exist. In fact, the surface temperature on Barnard’s star b is speculated at around -170 degrees, so it defs doesn’t sound like the ideal destination for an intergalactic getaway.

Nevertheless, Christina Rodrígues-Lopez, a co-author of the study, remains hopeful, saying in a recent statement that “this discovery means a boost to continue searching for exoplanets around our closest stellar neighbours, in the hope that eventually we will come upon one that has the right conditions to host life.” So while you may have to unpack your suitcases for the time being, it seems like it might not be much longer until we can be truly sure that we aren’t alone out here.