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Climate change also on Eris

The scientists who have followed the dwarf planet and the largest plutoid - Eris since it was discovered a few years ago have no explanation for the change in the composition of the materials on its surface, precisely when it is at the greatest distance from the sun

Eris and Moon Lumbri. NASA illustration
Eris and Moon Lumbri. NASA illustration

Eris, the largest dwarf planet beyond the orbit of Neptune is now at its furthest point from the Sun (ephelion of about 100 AU). At this distance Eris does not receive enough sunlight and any warming will be at its minimum level. However, two recent observations of Eris revealed rapid changes in the surface composition of the plutoid.

A spectroscopic analysis of the frozen nitrogen concentrations showed that these concentrations changed during the two years that Eris was at the farthest point from the sun. This is unexpected because it is estimated that at this point in the orbit, which is 557 years long, the nitrogen concentrations should not have changed. Is there a mechanism that affects the conditions of the surface of the dwarf planet. Did cryo-volcanic eruptions occur, or are the explanations more conventional?

"We have no idea," said Steven Tagler of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, who was the lead researcher on a paper to be published soon in the journal Icarus. Talger and his team analyzed spectroscopic data from the 6.5-meter-diameter MMT observatory in Arizona in 2007 and compared it with results obtained at the 4.2-meter-diameter Herschel Telescope in Spain from 2005.

In the two years between the two tests, the scientists believed that no dramatic difference would be revealed between the two data series, after all, the sunlight emitted from the surface of Eris would reveal a similar composition of the soil. In fact, the results couldn't be more surprising. It seems as if during these two years, given the fact that the distance from the sun has not changed significantly, the composition of the surface has changed a lot.

Normally, it would be possible to observe when a body reaches the greatest distance from the Sun. An increase or decrease in solar energy will change the weather conditions on the surface, but this situation is not applicable to Eris, so the chance of solar radiation affecting the weather on its surface is slim (if Eris has 'weather' at all).

The spectroscopic methane lines seem to be dimmed by the large amount of nitrogen. This means that the 2005 data showed a higher concentration of nitrogen near the surface, while the 2007 results showed a high concentration below the surface. For a planet to demonstrate rapid changes in surface composition indicates the existence of a very dynamic process at work.

Although a spacecraft will not reach Eris in the near future, the New Horizons spacecraft arriving at Pluto, Eris' smaller cousin, in 2015 will analyze the issue of cryovolcanics (volcanoes spewing ice), which spew ammonia, water, nitrogen and methane.

There is still a possibility that no change occurred between the two observations, but that in each observation a different part of the surface was measured, that in each of them the composition of the surface is different, after all, Eris rotates on its axis for 26 hours, so it is likely that every time we look at the planet ( Dwarf or not) we see a rough area on his face. So the next step the researchers want to take is a continuous observation of the surface of an entire day of Eris to see if the surface composition is full, which would be an interesting discovery in itself.

By the way, a few years ago, researchers who prepared the New Horizons flight to Pluto claimed that also on This dwarf planet has global warming.

For information on the Universe Today website

3 תגובות

  1. I did not pass because of the speed, and I had several things to do at the same time at that moment. I would appreciate it if you would draw my attention to specific errors and correct them immediately.

  2. Too bad there are so many errors
    Did the author of the article not go over it after printing?
    Is there no editing?
    It's a shame that it happens on such a special and interesting site as the science site

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