Red-tinged dwarf planet 'Snow White' covered with ice and may be with methane'

   Aug 23, 10:59 am

Washington, August 23 (ANI): The dwarf planet 2007 OR10 - nicknamed 'Snow White' - is an icy world, with about half its surface covered in water ice that once flowed from ancient, slush-spewing volcanoes, according to astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The new findings also suggested that the red-tinged dwarf planet might be covered in a thin layer of methane, the remnants of an atmosphere that's slowly being lost into space.

"You get to see this nice picture of what once was an active little world with water volcanoes and an atmosphere, and it's now just frozen, dead, with an atmosphere that's slowly slipping away," said Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy, who is the lead author on a paper.

'Snow White' - which was discovered in 2007 as part of the PhD thesis of Brown's former graduate student Meg Schwamb - orbits the Sun at the edge of the solar system and is about half the size of Pluto, making it the fifth largest dwarf planet.

At the time, Brown had guessed incorrectly that it was an icy body that had broken off from another dwarf planet named Haumea; he nicknamed it 'Snow White' for its presumed white colour.

As expected, 'Snow White' was red. But to their surprise, the spectrum revealed that the surface was covered in water ice.

There is, however, one other dwarf planet that's both red and covered with water ice: Quaoar, which Brown helped discover in 2002.

The spectrum of 2007 OR10 looks similar to Quaoar's, suggesting that what happened on Quaoar also happened on 2007 OR10.

"That combination-red and water-says to me, 'methane,'" said Brown.

"We're basically looking at the last gasp of Snow White. For four and a half billion years, Snow White has been sitting out there, slowly losing its atmosphere, and now there's just a little bit left," added Brown.

The study will be detailed in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. (ANI)

Early ecosystems were more complex than previously believed Nov 29, 8:01 am
Washington D.C, Nov 29 (ANI): An organism from 555 million years ago has shown that Earth's first ecosystems were more complex than previously believed.
Full Story
Human and bird's common sound production mechanism Nov 28, 2:47 pm
Washington D.C, Nov 28 (ANI): When birds and humans sing, it sounds completely different, but now new research shows that the very same physical mechanisms are at play when a bird sings and a human speaks.
Full Story
Breakthrough paves way for new Alzheimer's cure Nov 28, 1:54 pm
Washington D.C, Nov 28 (ANI): New treatments for Alzheimer's disease could be on the horizon after a team of researchers discovered how the degenerative brain condition destroys the connections between brain cells.
Full Story
How snakes got legless Nov 28, 1:37 pm
Washington D.C, Nov 28 (ANI): Analysis of a reptile fossil has helped a team of scientists solve the evolutionary mystery of how snakes lost their legs.
Full Story