Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nitrogen, Methane Dominate Icy Surface of Eris

01.10.2010
A team of scientists at Northern Arizona University, Missouri State University and Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory recently revealed that the frozen surface of Eris, the largest-known dwarf planet orbiting the sun, is predominantly covered in nitrogen ice, similar to the surface of Pluto.

Stephen Tegler, NAU professor of physics and astronomy and lead author of “Methane and Nitrogen Abundances on Eris and Pluto,” will present the team’s findings Oct. 5 at the 42nd annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Pasadena, Calif.

The paper also was submitted for publication to the Astrophysical Journal.

Tegler’s results integrated two years of work conducted in NAU’s new ice lab, in addition to astronomical observations of Eris from the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory from Mount Hopkins, Ariz., and of Pluto from Steward Observatory from Kitt Peak, Ariz.

“There are only a handful of such labs doing this kind of work in the world,” Tegler said. “By studying surfaces of icy dwarf planets, we hope to get a better understanding of the processes that affect their surfaces.”

NAU’s ice lab grew optically clear ice samples of methane, nitrogen, argon, methane-nitrogen mixtures and methane-argon mixtures in a vacuum chamber at temperatures as low as minus 390 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate the planets’ cold surfaces. Light passed through the samples revealed the “chemical finger prints” of molecules and atoms, which were compared to telescopic observations of sunlight reflected from the surfaces of Eris and Pluto.

“By combining the astronomical data and laboratory data, we found about 90 percent of Eris’s icy surface is made up of nitrogen ice and about 10 percent is made up of methane ice, which is not all that different from Pluto,” said David Cornelison, coauthor and physicist at Missouri State University.

Discovered in 2003 and named after the goddess of warfare and strife, Eris hit the astronomical map with the largest diameter of any known dwarf planet, consequently unseating its smaller neighbor Pluto from “official” to dwarf planet status. Since then, Eris has held the attention of astronomers and physicists as they strive to gain a better understanding of the farthest reaches of the solar system.

The recent findings will directly enhance NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft mission, currently scheduled to fly by Pluto in 2015, lending greater value to the continued research of Eris and Pluto.

William Grundy, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, is a member of NASA’s New Horizons Team and contributing author of the paper.

“By measuring and then comparing and contrasting the properties of Eris and Pluto, we can better understand how planets in the outer solar system formed and then evolved over the last 4.5 billion years,” Grundy said.

Cindy Brown | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.nau.edu

Further reports about: ERIS Icy Methane NASA’s Kepler Mission Observatory Pluto Surface dwarf planet nitrogen solar system

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark

nachricht Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>