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)

Scientists discover 'chink in HIV's armour' Oct 25, 12:41 pm
Washington, Oct 25 (ANI): Scientists have found a new protein, called Ssu72 that seems to be part of a switch used to awaken HIV-1 (the most common type of HIV) from its slumber.
Full Story
Highest altitude human occupation 1 millennia earlier than previously documented Oct 24, 3:59 pm
Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): An archaeological team has found evidence of the highest altitude human occupied land in the southern Peruvian Andes dated 900 years earlier than previously documented.
Full Story
Scientists shed new light on how hormone works in weight loss Oct 24, 2:30 pm
Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): Scientists have found the how the hormone, which is a popular target to develop weight-loss drugs, works in our body.
Full Story
Hunchback 'Horrible Hands' dino had 'incredibly' long arms Oct 24, 1:57 pm
Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): A new study examined the new fossils of an "incredibly" long-armed dinosaur nicknamed "Horrible Hands" and demonstrated that the dinosaur had a prominent hunchback, was omnivorous, and had features that prevented it from sinking into wet ground.
Full Story
Comments

LATEST STORIES
TOP VIDEO STORIES
PHOTO GALLERY