The International Astronomical Union has confirmed that a new dwarf planet has been discovered looming about the Kuiper belt. Though more study is required for an official confirmation, the new-found celestial body could join the list of the other dwarf planets known so far: Pluto, Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.
Led by physicist David Gerdes, a team of undergraduate students from the University of Michigan have made the discovery. The planet is located 8.5 billion miles from the center of the Solar System. This already puts in the “Top 3 most distant objects from the Sun,” after trans-Neptunian object V774104, and dwarf planet Eris.
The object has, so far, been named 2014 UZ224. It may not be the most catchy name, but the discovery still needs to be properly studied in order for it to be confirmed as the official new dwarf planet. So, for now, 2014 UZ224 will have to do.
The object was tracked with the help of a special galactic map, designed by the Dark Energy Survey. David Gerdes has stated that the key to observing the object was to use the map in order to notice objects that seem to move “through the sky.”
Galaxies, and even stars, may appear stationary from our point of view, but objects such as 2014 UZ224, move pretty fast and can change their location from one instant to another. It took specially developed software and a lot of patience to make sense of the information provided and properly trace the object’s orbit.
Reportedly, 2014 UZ224 takes about 1,100 years to orbit the Sun. It measures approximately 330 miles and width. Even if it’s roughly twice as small as Pluto’s satellite, Charon, it’s still the right size to be considered a proper new dwarf planet.
More so, the discovery was not exactly what the team was looking for. Like many others, Gerdes and his team were, in fact, searching for the mysterious Ninth Planet of our Solar System. Even though Pluto had this status revoked in 2006, astronomers are still looking for a celestial body with a size roughly ten times larger than our Earth.
The information that astronomers have put together so far only suggests that the Ninth Planet might be around there, somewhere, on the rim of the Solar System. But the images that were used by Gerdes to discover 2014 UZ224 may actually lead to the actual discovery of the Ninth Planet.
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