Snow White And The Frozen Dwarf   27 comments


Snow White – World of Ice and Methane

Snow White (Photo Credit: NASA)US Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 known as Snow White –once a small volcanically active world firing slushy water ice from ancient volcanoes, and boasting an atmosphere, is today an icy, frozen, dead world, tinged red and enveloped in a thin layer of methane that is slowly slipping away to be lost into space.

Snow White — 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. Part of a larger group of icy bodies called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).Ironically Snow White has actually proved to be one of the reddest objects in the solar system.

However last autumn using a newly designed instrument called the Folded-port Infrared Echellette (FIRE), with the 6.5-meter Magellan Baade Telescope in Chile, Adam Burgasser, a former graduate student and now a professor at UC San Diego, and Wesley Fraser, postdoctoral scholar were shocked to find out although Snow White was indeed red, it’s surface was also covered in water ice.

“Water ice is not red! Although ice is common in the outer solar system, it’s almost always white~ Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy.

One other dwarf planet that shares these characteristics is Quaoar, discovered in 2002. Slightly smaller than Snow White, Quaoar is still big enough to have had an atmosphere and a surface covered with volcanoes that sent-up and slush and ice, which as with Snow White flowed over the surface before freezing solid.

But smaller than dwarf planets like Pluto or Eris, it was unable to hold onto volatile methane, carbon monoxide, or nitrogen compounds as long. And two billion years after its formation Quaoar inevitably began to lose its atmosphere to space; now, and today all that remains is the space-irradiated methane which rests on the icy surface Quaoar’s, giving it a glowing reddish hue.

It is clear from indications on the spectrum of Snow White 2007 OR10 which clearly shows the presence of water ice that it too for the last ½ billion years it has followed in the footsteps of Quaoar, still and silent amongst the stars, slowly losing its atmosphere into space until now only a small part remains."

The existence of methane is still open to debate. But the use of a large telescope such as the Keck Observatory will show clearly whether methane exists on Snow White or not. If this proves to be so it will join Quaoar as one of only two dwarf planets that bridge the gap between the tiny selection of entities large enough to hold onto hazardous composites, and the smaller entities that constitute the vast majority of KBOs.

27 responses to “Snow White And The Frozen Dwarf

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  1. This is new to me. Snow White has been hiding for years, and it makes me wonder how many more new discoveries are out of site at this time. Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed the read. Have a good week.

    • Hundreds of potentially habitable planets have been found in the vast galactic void beyond our solar system in the last decade, but exoplanets capable of supporting life could be far easier to find around white dwarf stars such as Snow White – dim,final-life-stage stars…so the universe is our oyster so far as new discoveries go 🙂

  2. Snow White I like her very much wolfie..
    Visit my new snow white site
    and dont forget my Night Lady
    Have a nice week my dear friend…
    Huhs Nicki

  3. You always leave me stunned with the information you post here Wolfie… and loved this entry…. .. Did you see on the weather news… that the UK could be in for a mini artic winter again this year…?? so we too are in I feel it in my bones for some more of that White stuff we know as snow here on Earth.. the Red is the plenty of berries again for the harvest of the birds etc…. I just wonder if to purchase some snow tyres for my car.. as I live on a hill.. and I couldnt get out to work for 3 days last winter as i was snowed in..
    Wishing you a Great week Wolfie in your Icy Realms.. PS.. Do you have a telescope to look to the heavens with?? Just curious! 🙂 As I love Star gazing!!

    • I had heard…can’t say I was any too thrilled either! However we are enjoying a mini balmy summer-autumn week for now so I’m making the most of it and trying hard to ignore the mini arctic winter forecasts 😉 Failing that I’m off to thjat nice hot little Kelper world!
      I did have a telescope till it fell victim to the house repossession…too big and too bulky to get out in the 15 min’s I had to grab as many personal belongings as I could and get myself out of the house for good. I have just purchased a far more practical and potentially far more useful (wider range of view than telescopes) pair of astronomical binoculars. They are also adaptable for use with a tripod should I feel so inclined when life is stable enough to consider the option 🙂 Pity about the thick cloud cover preventing any chance to actually use them! lol Have a warm and dreamy week 🙂

      • Arrgh…. sorry to hear about your 15minute deadline Wolfie.. There was a really good clear couple of nights recently and I did a bit of ‘Day-Dreaming instead of Dreamwalking LOL… as I looked up to the night sky.. or maybe that should be Night-Dreaming LOL… anyhows Wolfie, I talked to the stars… and they winked back… 🙂 😉 … Hope you are well my Fury Friend. ..

  4. If Snow White is found, were is the wicked Stepmother lol, Enjoyed this Wolfie

  5. id love a mini ice age this xmas then a quick thaw icey your very up on all the planets it always amazes that we are suspened in this big universe hope ou have recovered and feeling better il extend your sick note a while longer lol xxjen

    • Too kind jen lol 😉 And you probably have another couple of weeks before I can indulge in an Icy bite of your vampy self so all should be well with you for now…! Personally I could live without any mini ice ages thanks!! x Icy 🙂

  6. It’s a bit beyond me and my little brain Wolfie, but I still believe you shouldn’t draw back the veil on mystery, or the sun shine on magic, take your pick.
    Anyhow to human matters, how are you after your little ‘happening’ ?

    • You could be vright there Arlene…but it’s nice to have a little peep behind the veil sometimes!
      Still bouncing around after my little ‘happening’ lol 😉 Was good to wash my hair for the 1st time in a week though I’m not hopeful about a hair cut – don’t want to freak out the hair dresser do we? lol…
      Have a lovely weekend and hope you’re enjoying some sun 🙂

  7. Hej Wolfie..
    Ja second hand butiker i sverige har blivit konstiga så dom skiter vi i nu bättre att sälja sina saker på internet jättebra och dom kommer ju och hämtar sakerna själv också..
    Night Lady och snowwhite kunde inte skriva på din blogspot får prova igen en annan dag men på din wordpress går det bra..Ha en fin
    kväll Wolfie Kram Nicki

    • Hej Nickie 🙂
      Second hand butiker låter väldigt konstigt!
      Inte alls logiskt;)
      Kanske inte så konstigt
      Möjligen inte så konstigt
      som Internet!!

      Ja … blogspot kan vara mycket konstigt och irriterande!
      Har du sett den nya Dynamic layouter nu?
      Jag skulle vilja prova en
      … men jag undrar om de är en av orsakerna till alla problem vi har haft …

      Jag önskar er en härlig helg! Kram Wolfie

  8. Merhaba sevgili arkadaşım Buz 🙂
    Güzel dostluk adına teşekkür ederim
    Mutlu ve güzel bir gün diliyorum
    Kucak dolusu sevgiler size gönderiyorum 🙂

  9. I never got an update for this one, in fact I don’t
    always get updates from a lot of my friends here
    so I apologise for missing this posting of yours
    my Icywolfy great friend…

    I like your in depth offerings Icywolfy as they are
    not only very interesting but they offer a learning
    curve for anyone that is into Astronomy… I used
    to have a telescope many moons ago but I have
    always been interested in Outer Space, the many
    Planets and the discoveries of same. Thank you
    for taking the time to add such wonderful posts
    and I hope that you will be posting a lot more of
    these Icywolfy of the Icy Realm 🙂 Brilliant read…

    Androgoth XXx

    • No problem 🙂 I’m sure you get loads of blog updates coming through, you follow a lot of people 😉 So hardly any wonder if the relatively infrequent Icewolfie ones slip through the net sometimes and get missed! Quite understand, but it’s always good to see you here in the Icy Realm…with your iceberg polishing kit 🙂
      Pleasently surprised by the response to this one actually…wasn’t sure that it would interest many people but it’s done well for one of this nature. If I HAD posted the in-depth version, the one that expanded in detail on the science of white dwarfs I think…lol…even you would have run off screaming after sending Icewolfie off with a bunsen burner in her Wolfie ear! lol 😉 This was the concise version!! Really!!! 🙂

  10. Interesting post, Wolfie. I can’t help but wonder where the space program in our country will go now that we no longer have manned space launch vehicles. With our economic problems and congress always eager to cut NASA funding we ma never return to space. That would be a tragedy considering all the technological contributions that have resulted from manned spaceflight.

  11. hi icey hope your noggin has healed its cold wet and wintry tonight hope you have your heat on icey and your woollly draws i have xxjen

  12. Merhaba benim sevgili arkadaşım Buz :))
    Harika yorumların için teşekkür ederim
    size yeni güzel bir hafta diliyorum.
    iyi geceler tatlı rüyalar ..
    Kucak dolusu sevgiler gönderiyorum

  13. Hi Wolfie.. just dropping in to drop off an Award I think you should have.. The Versatile Blogger Award
    Have a Great warm.. weekend.. Take care my fury friend

  14. Günaydın benim sevgili arkadaşım Buz :))
    Güzel yorumlarınız çok özledim.
    harika dostluk için teşekkür ederim
    size mutlu ve neşeli bir hafta sonu diliyorum
    kucak dolusu sevgiler gönderiyorum

    • Benim sevgili arkadaşım Seçıl
      Üzgünüm WordPress burada değil
      size ben unutmadık 🙂
      Ben de seni özledi! Nasılsın?

      Güzel yorumlar için teşekkür ederim
      ve güzel grafikler 🙂
      Ben harika bir hafta dilerim
      ve ben size vermek
      buz gül!…Buz kurt gül! 🙂

      Buz kucaklama sevgili arkadaşım!

  15. Wow you have been busy! It is good to be here in the blue Ice Realm. Good to see you.
    Snow White a dwarf planet…arh humor in that name! Quaoar and Pluto wow, we are learning more all the time….Imaging has become so much better which is one of the great things of technology.
    Hope you are well and smiling 😀

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