DeeDee Could Be The Newest Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System

Posted: Apr 16 2017, 4:31am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
DeeDee could be the Newest Dwarf Planet in our Solar System
Artist's impression of 2014 UZ224, also informally known as DeeDee. Credit: Alexandra Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Using ALMA, astronomers have been able to study potential dwarf planet 2014 UZ224, nicknamed DeeDee, in great detail

Astronomers have recently investigated a small world located at the edge of our solar system and they believe it could soon join the ranks of solar dwarf planets in our solar system.

The potential dwarf planet 2014 UZ224, nicknamed DeeDee, sits 92 times farther from the sun than the Earth is or about three times the current distance of Pluto from the Sun, making it the second most distant known object in the solar system after dwarf planet Eris.

DeeDee was originally discovered in 2014 using the Blanco telescope in Chile as a part of ongoing observations for probing the mystery of dark energy. But the discovery was not announced until December 2016. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have recently peered into the planetary body and revealed extraordinary details about the far-flung member of our solar system.

Researchers have found that DeeDee is around 635 kilometers wide or about two-thirds the diameter of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest member of our asteroid belt. At this size, it should be massive enough to become spherical in shape under its own gravity. It is criteria necessary for a planetary body to be considered as a dwarf planet.

Since DeeDee lies beyond the most distant in solar system Neptune, it takes more than 1,100 years to complete one orbit around Sun. Light from DeeDee takes nearly 13 hours to reach us.

DeeDee is not the only planetary body that lies beyond Neptune. Researchers estimate that there are tens of thousands of small icy bodies lurking in the outer part of our solar system, but they have not been detected yet.

"Far beyond Pluto is a region surprisingly rich with planetary bodies. Some are quite small but others have sizes to rival Pluto, and could possibly be much larger,” said David Gerdes, a scientist with University of Michigan and lead author of the study. “Because these objects are so distant and dim, it’s incredibly difficult to even detect them, let alone study them in detail.”

“ALMA, however, has unique capabilities that enabled us to learn exciting details about these distant worlds.”

When researchers detected DeeDee during Dark Energy Survey - a project aiming to understand the mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe - they were able to confirm its orbital properties and distance. But they could not observe the size and other physical features of the object, which are required to determine its class and status.

ALMA observations enabled researchers to determine its temperature as well as the information necessary to calculate the size of the object.

“We calculated that this object would be incredibly cold, only about 30 degrees Kelvin, just a little above absolute zero,” said Gerdes. “We were then able to resolve the ambiguity we had with the optical data alone.”

Although DeeDee possesses all the markers of becoming a dwarf planet, it has yet to receive that official designation.

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