Lying at a distance of about 6 light years, Barnard's Star is the fifth closest known star to Earth. Only the Sun and the three components of the Alpha Centauri system are closer. But Barnard's Star is a red dwarf (spectral type M4), so despite its proximity it is too faint to see without a telescope or powerful binoculars. Its apparent magnitude is 9.54.
For many years from 1963 onwards, a substantial number of astronomers accepted a claim by Peter van de Kamp that he had detected a perturbation in the proper motion of Barnard's star consistent with its having one or more planets comparable in mass with Jupiter. When independent data were collected in the 1980s, this conclusion came to be disputed and the consensus is now that van de Kamp's claim was erroneous. During the period that the claim was accorded credibility, it contributed to the star's fame among the science fiction community and the star's adoption as a target for Project Daedalus (a plan for a prototype interstellar space probe).
Barnard's Star is also known as HIP 87937, and various other unfriendly names.