Move Over, Pluto: Distant Icy Object 'DeeDee' Qualifies as Solar Sytem's Newest Dwarf Planet
Recent observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) revealed that the distant icy object known as 2014 UZ224, or more commonly dubbed as "DeeDee," has enough mass to maintain a spherical shape, qualifying it as a dwarf planet.
The new observations, described in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggest that DeeDee is about 394 miles in diameter. DeeDee is about two-thirds the size of the dwarf planet Ceres located in the asteroid belt.
"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 at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, in a press release. "Because these objects are so distant and dim, it's incredibly difficult to even detect them, let alone study them in any detail. ALMA, however, has unique capabilities that enabled us to learn exciting details about these distant worlds."
— Ben Gross (@bhgross144) October 12, 2016
For their observations, the researchers pointed ALMA to the location of DeeDee. Using the ability of ALMA to detect the heat emitted naturally by cold objects in space, the researchers were able to estimate the diameter of the dwarf planet DeeDee. The heat coming from cold objects in the space is detected in the form of millimeter-wavelength light. Heat signature from a distant object would be directly proportional to its size.
Initially observed using the four-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, DeeDee is about 92 astronomical units (AU), the average distance between the Sun and Earth, or about 150 million kilometers, from the sun. DeeDee takes over 1,100 years to complete one orbit. Additionally, light from DeeDee takes nearly 13 hours to reach Earth.
With the latest observations of DeeDee, astronomers are now pretty ecstatic about the idea that other undiscovered dwarf planet candidates are lurking at the outer reaches of our solar system still waiting to be found. The researchers also noted that the techniques used to estimate DeeDee's measurements can also be used to help the search for the highly elusive Planet Nine.