Who Knew Things Could Get So Hot that Snow Could Form?

Most recently I read an article in Science Daily, entitled, Stellar Outburst Brings Water Snowline Around a Young Star into View.   According to the article, a violent outburst occurred within a star, V883 Orionis (located about 1,350 light years from Earth), that created a view that appeared to look like snow in the sky in the midst of a protoplanetary disk.   There was a great increase in the amount of heat of the star toward the inner portion of the protoplanetary disk which caused an increase in brightness.  According to the article, the increase in brightness lead to the outburst which caused the view of the snowline to be larger and to extend further out in the disk than it normally would.  Because the star produces heat much like that of the Sun, water can’t freeze near the star.  “Typically, heat from a young Sun-like star prevents water molecules from freezing within a radius of about three astronomical units, around 450 million kilometers, from the star.  Beyond that point, known as the snowline, water condenses to form a layer of ice on dust grains and other particles.”  I found out through the article that V883 Orionis is only about 30% bigger than the Sun, but about 400 times more luminous.  This, of course, means that the star is much hotter than the Sun as the article points out.  The water and ice surrounding the star aid in helping the star or stars like it to develop into planets over time.  “Since water ice is more abundant than dust itself beyond the snowline, planets can aggregate more solid material and form bigger and faster there.”  In similar fashion, giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn were formed.

In class, we worked on a lecture tutorial entitled, “Luminosity, Temperature, and Size”.  In this lecture tutorial, we worked on an activity where we had to choose which hot plate in the options given would cook a pot of spaghetti quicker as shown below.


We learned that if two hot plates are the same size, the higher the temperature of the hot plate the quicker the spaghetti would cook.  But, we also learned that the cooking time also depends on the size of the hot plate.  In part two of the same lecture tutorial, we answered questions on an H-R diagram.  Please see the picture below.  We were able to conclude that if a star (let’s call it Star R) is bigger than another star (let’s call it Star S) and has a higher surface temperature, then Star R is more luminous or gives off more energy than the Star S.


In the case of V883 Orionis and the Sun, the article made it clear that V883 Orionis was bigger than the Sun and much hotter.  The article didn’t list an exact temperature for V883 Orionis, but we do know that the temperature of the Sun is approximately 5800 Kelvins or a little under 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  I can only imagine what “much hotter” means in reference to V883 Orionis’s temperature.  But, I can definitely conclude that the temperature must be extremely high because the article stated that it was 400 times more luminous than the Sun.  It’s rate of energy output is 400 times that of the Sun with it only being 30% bigger than the size of the Sun.  That’s some serious energy output!

I searched around in other articles to see if any of the astronomers who studied this celestial body mentioned the temperature of V883 Orionis but was not able to find an approximate temperature.  I found it interesting learning that a celestial body could produce temperatures so high that it’s outburst could extend far enough away from the inner portion of the star that it would produce a water snowline.  That was pretty cool.


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