The Strange History and Stranger Planet of Barnard’s Star

The above video, made by a certain “ParallaxNick”, describes the history of Barnard’s Star beginning with its discoverer, the eponymous E.E. Barnard, himself a noted astronomer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While some aspects of the Barnard’s Star itself are interesting, such as the fact that Barnard’s Star is potentially a halo star, and is as old as our galaxy is, at twelve billion years of age, what I found most interesting were the aspects concerning the potential planet orbiting Barnard’s Star.

This planet, according to its discoverers, has a 99% chance of existing, so we can be reasonably certain that this planet does indeed exist. Furthermore, while this planet is nowhere near the habitable zone of Barnard’s Star, specifically being beyond the Snow Line, even though its distance from its homestar is comparable to the distance of Mercury from our own Sun, but it isn’t a gas giant. Gas giants can’t exist around Barnard’s Star, according to the video anyways, because Barnard’s Star is too low in metals to permit such a planet from forming.

This planet is a super earth, at around two to three times the size and mass of Earth, and yet this planet may still be capable of allowing life to flourish on it. To compare this planet to any of the inner planets within our own solar system would be wrong, this planet is more comparable to Titan, the famous moon of Saturn known for possessing lakes and rivers of methane and ethane.

While it is unlikely that methanogenic based life exists, as far as we know anyways, it is not impossible as far as the laws of physics allow it, and so Barnard’s Star b, as the potential planet has been dubbed, may be home to a thriving biosphere like Earth is, although any methane-based biosphere would be incapable of allowing complex, multicellular life to form in reasons outlined in another ParallaxNick’s videos, the one on Titan linked to in the video above.

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