A new search for extrasolar planets from the Arecibo Observatory

A new search for extrasolar planets from the Arecibo Observatory

Credit: Planetary Habitability Laboratory

The National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory and the
Planetary Habitability Laboratory of the University of Puerto
Rico at Arecibo joined the Red Dots project in the search for
new planets around our nearest stars. This new collaboration
will simultaneously observe in both the optical and radio
spectrum Barnard’s Star, a popular star in science fiction

Barnard’s star is a low-mass almost six light-years away and the
second-closest stellar system to the sun after the Alpha
Centauri triple-star system. There are hints of a possible
super-Earth mass planet in a cold orbit around this star.

The Arecibo Observatory has a new campaign to observe nearby
with . The purpose of this campaign is to
detect radio emissions from these , such as from flares, to help characterize
their radiation and magnetic environment and any potential
perturbations due to other bodies. These perturbations might
reveal the presence of new sub-stellar objects including

Barnard’s Star will be the eighth red dwarf star to be recently
observed by the Arecibo Observatory. Results from Gliese 436,
Ross 128, Wolf 359, HD 95735, BD +202465, V* RY Sex, and K2-18
are currently being analyzed. These observations are led by
Prof. Abel Méndez, Director of the Planetary Habitability
Laboratory of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo in
collaboration with Dr. Jorge Zuluaga from the Universidad de
Antioquia in Colombia.

The Red Dots team will be joining the observations with the
Arecibo Observatory of Barnard’s Star in coordination with
other observatories. They are planning simultaneous photometric
and spectral observations from SNO, LCO, TJO, and CARMENES from
Spain, and earlier with ASH2 from Chile. All these observations
will be used to understand the star but more observations by
the Red Dots team will be necessary for the detection of any
new planet.

The first extrasolar planets were discovered from the Arecibo
Observatory in 1992. They were three small planets named
Draugr, Poltergeist, and Phobetor around the Lich Pulsar, a
fast rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic
radiation. The first planet around a sun-like star was later
discovered in 1995 and today we know of more than 3,500 of
them. Recent observations by the Arecibo Observatory have been
able to detect brown dwarfs, but no new planet yet.

The first and only time that Barnard’s Star was observed from
the Arecibo Observatory was during the SETI Institute’s

Phoenix Project
(1998-2004). The new observations are in a
different frequency (4 to 5 GHz) where radio emission from
stellar flares have been
observed in other similar or cooler objects
. This is the
first time Barnard’s Star is seen with such frequencies and

The observations of Barnard’s Star are next sunday, July 16.
Another star, Ross 128, will be observed again later that day
because it showed potential radio emissions that require
follow-up. Results from these observations will be available
later that week. The Red Dots team keeps an open journal of their
observational campaign.

Explore further:

Assist astronomers’ new hunt for Earth-like planets

Provided by: Planetary Habitability Laboratory