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)

How science can make you better guitar player revealed Jul 24, 4:51 pm
Washington, July 24 (ANI): A study has revealed the physics underlying the differences in the lead guitar playing techniques like string bends, tapping, vibrato and whammy.
Full Story
Here's how Popeye will fuel tomorrow's world with spinach! Jul 24, 2:57 pm
Washington, July 24 (ANI): Scientists have revealed that spinach could hold a key to convert sunlight into efficient, alternative fuel source.
Full Story
Girls' puberty age depends on which parent's 'imprinted gene' they carry Jul 24, 10:35 am
Washington, July 24 (ANI): A new study has found that the puberty age of girls largely depends on which of the two parents' 'imprinted' genes they have.
Full Story
Rising temperatures hinder Indian wheat production: Study Jul 23, 5:29 pm
Southampton (United Kingdom), July 23 (ANI): Geographers at the University of Southampton have found a link between increasing average temperatures in India and a reduction in wheat production.
Full Story
Comments

LATEST STORIES
TOP VIDEO STORIES
PHOTO GALLERY