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)

Vegetarian dino 'Stegosaurus' used sharp tail as deadly weapon Oct 22, 11:45 am
Washington, Oct 22 (ANI): A new research has revealed that Stegosaurus dinosaurs, who were mostly portrayed as plant eaters, were also lethal fighters and used their spiky tails to fight against their enemies.
Full Story
Lightest fingertip touch can help people maintain balance on feet Oct 22, 10:51 am
Washington, Oct 22 (ANI): A new study had shown that even the slightest of support can help people to maintain their balance.
Full Story
South American tarantula gets John Lennon's moniker Oct 21, 4:37 pm
Washington, Oct 21 (ANI): Scientists have named a newly described tarantula species from Western Brazilian Amazonia as 'Bumba lennoni' 'in honor of John Lennon, a founder member of the legendary band the Beatles.
Full Story
Now, electronic 'EyeCane' that enables the blind Oct 21, 4:37 pm
Washington, Oct 21 (ANI): A new Electronic travel aids (ETA), the "EyeCane," has been developed that is tactile and provide auditory cues that can enhance the mobility of blind users.
Full Story
Comments

LATEST STORIES
TOP VIDEO STORIES
PHOTO GALLERY