Barnard's Star is a very-low-mass red dwarf about 6 light-years away from Earth in the
constellation of Ophiuchus. It is the fourth-nearest known individual star to the Sun (after the
three components of the Alpha Centauri system) and the closest star in the Northern Celestial
Hemisphere. Despite its proximity, with a dim apparent magnitude of +9.5, the star is invisible
to the unaided eye; it is much brighter in the infrared than in visible light.
The star is named after the American astronomer E. E. Barnard. He was not the first to observe
the star (it appeared on Harvard University plates in 1888 and 1890), but in 1916 he measured
its proper motion (which is a function of its close proximity to Earth, and not of its actual space
velocity) as 10.3 arcseconds per year, which remains the largest proper motion of any star
relative to the Sun. This is likely to be the fastest star in terms of proper-motion, as its close
proximity to the Sun, as well as its high velocity make it unlikely any faster object (in terms of
proper-motion) remains undiscovered.
Barnard's Star is among the most studied red dwarfs because of its proximity and favorable
location for observation near the celestial equator. Historically, research on Barnard's Star has
focused on measuring its stellar characteristics, its astrometry, and also refining the limits of
possible extrasolar planets. Although Barnard's Star is an ancient star (7-12 billion years-old), it
still experiences star flare events, one being observed in 1998.
The star has also been the subject of some controversy. For a decade, from the early 1960s to
the early 1970s, Peter van de Kamp claimed that there were one or more gas giants in orbit
around it. Although the presence of small terrestrial planets around Barnard's Star remains a
possibility, Van de Kamp's specific claims of large gas giants were refuted in the mid-1970s.
This image comprises 3 x Red, Green and Blue (60, 61 and 49 seconds each), 0.5m f/2.9 ASA
Astrograph with FLI ML3200 camera at an altitude of 60 degrees on 20 August 2017. The field
of view is 34’ x 23’.
Hills Observatory: 1 January 2013 to 6 May 2018