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Michigan Scientists Found New Dwarf Planet Lurking in Our Solar System

Oct 12, 2016 05:45 AM EDT
Scientists discover new dwarf planet, like Pluto, about 8.5 billion miles away from the sun
(Photo : NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via Getty Images)

A team of scientists from the University of Michigan have discovered a new dwarf planet lurking in the outermost part of our solar system in the region beyond Pluto.

The dwarf planet, named 2014 UZ224, is located some 8.5 billion miles from the sun and takes about 1,100 Earth years to complete a single orbit around the sun. Measuring 330 miles across, 2014 UZ224 is much smaller than Pluto's largest moon Charon, which measures 750 miles in diameter.

The discovery of the dwarf planet was made after David Gerdes of University of Michigan instruct undergraduates visiting him to find some objects lurking in our solar system. One way of tracking nearby objects in our solar system is looking for something that actually moves. Gerdes noted that planets and asteroid that are near will appear in a slightly different position from night to night, while more distant stars and galaxies will appear to be stationary.

"We often just have a single observation of the thing, on one night," said Gerdes in a report from National Public Radio. "And then two weeks later one observation, and then five nights later another observation, and four months later another observation. So the connecting-the-dots problem is much more challenging."

Using software developed by the team of undergraduates, they were able to discern that 2014 UZ224 is slightly moving, while more distant objects in the same area in the sky appeared to be stuck in place.

According to the report from Christian Science Monitor, 2014 UZ224 is not the only dwarf planet found in our solar system. In the past decade, astronomers have detected and recognized five dwarf planets in our solar system. These include, Ceres, Eris, Haumea, Makemake and the demoted Pluto. Ceres can be found in the asteroid belt, while the remaining dwarf planets are located in the Kuiper Belt. Astronomers believe that there are more dwarf planets in the outermost region of our solar system waiting to be discovered.

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