A dwarf planet half the size of Pluto that was nicknamed “Snow White” due to its icy surface may not be a white planet at all. In fact, it might be one of the reddest planets in the solar system.
Discovered in 2007, “Snow White” was originally assumed to have a white coloration due to the presence of icy water covering around half of its surface. However, recent studies have shown that the planet is actually a reddish color, possibly indicating the presence of methane in its depleted atmosphere.
“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 California Institute of Technology professor Mike Brown, whose former graduate student Meg Schwamb discovered the planet as part of her PhD thesis.
According to Brown, the planet’s red color likely comes from methane in the atmosphere being exposed to space radiation.
If there is indeed methane in the atmosphere — a rare environment for dwarf planets — “Snow White” could be important enough to merit a name change. Currently, “Snow White” is just a nickname for the dwarf planet, which is actually designated “2007 OR10” in official records.
In order to stick with the faerie tale theme, how about calling it “Rose Red”? Seems like a no-brainer to us…
Photo via Reuters
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