Arecibo observatory joins Red Dots today for simultaneous observations of Barnard’s star

The National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory and the Planetary Habitability Laboratory of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo joins forces with Red Dots today to learn a bit more about the nearest red-dwarfs and its possible planets. This collaboration will simultaneously observe in both the optical and radio spectrum Barnard’s Star, a popular star in the science fiction literature. Next week we will have a few more articles here on Red Dots on the history of this remarkable star (featuring a special guest article by Centauri Dream‘s author Paul Gilster). Those adept to science fiction literature may recall that Arecibo’s telescope is the mythical observatory where Dr. Ellie Harroway starts her Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (or SETI) in Carl Sagan’s novel and film Contact, so the execution of these coordinated observations is a special event for us.

Observations on Barnard’s star will last for about 1.5 hours and they will be carried out at the so-called C-band, which corresponds to frequencies between 4 to 5 GHz. For comparison, kitchen microwave ovens work at frequencies of about 2.5 GHz. These will be complemented with spectra, and photometric monitoring with the follow-up facilities already being used in Red Dots including;  SNO, LCO, TJO, and CARMENES. Data might also be obtained with ESO’s HARPS, but the weather forecast at La Silla is not promising today.

More detailed information about the radio observations can be found at http://phl.upr.edu/press-releases/barnard

Planet hunting observations and follow-up are usually done at optical and infrared wavelengths. But processes that can mimic the presence of a planet might have radio counterparts as well. Simultaneous observations with different facilities are difficult to organise, so this will be a rare opportunity to explore synergies for future campaigns. Compared to optical and infrared telescopes (

Nearby red dwarf stars being monitored at Arecibo observatory. Credits : Abel Méndez/PHL, images generated using Aladin Sky Atlas (http://aladin.u-strasbg.fr/)

These radio observations are part of an effort lead by Prof. Abel Méndez to understand the space weather environment of terrestrial planets in temperate orbits around the nearest red dwarfs. Once the observations are made and reduced, we will post additional updates.