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DeeDee: New ‘Dwarf Planet’ in our Solar System

We now know more about a recently-discovered planetary body, nicknamed DeeDee, spotted in our very own solar system. The new findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Artist’s impression of DeeDee, a planetary body called 2014 UZ224. It is within our solar system, but more distant from us than Pluto. Photo credits: Alexandra Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

DeeDee is a faraway ‘new’ member of our solar system. Its distance from the Sun is three times that of Pluto; the only other distant planetary body with a confirmed orbit is dwarf planet Eris. DeeDee’s real name is 2014 UZ224, and new intricate details pertaining to it have been revealed recently thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) by the same group of astronomers who confirmed its existence last year. DeeDee was initially spotted with the 4-meter Blanco telescope of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory based in Chile.

DeeDee is at a distance of around 92 astronomical units (AU) from our Sun. An AU is the mean distance from Earth to the Sun, which is at 150 million kilometers. A year on DeeDee is tantamount to 1,100 of ours. It takes more than half a day (13 hours) for light from DeeDee to reach us. You get the point: DeeDee is extremely, out-of-this-world faraway from us.

The updated findings show that DeeDee is 635 kilometers in diameter, which is around 33% that of dwarf planet Ceres. The astronomers believe that this mass is large enough for it to be spherical in shape: this should theoretically put DeeDee in the dwarf planet club. DeeDee is actually short for Distant Dwarf, but, no official classification has been made yet.

It is believed that DeeDee is not the only one out there. There is a whole world of planetary bodies beyond Pluto, suggests lead author David Gerdes, according to whom, some of these objects might be comparable to Pluto in size, or even bigger. If this is true, why haven’t we detected them, then? Gerdes explains that they would be too distant, and thus too dim, to be perceived by us. On the bright side, though, ALMA can help us discover the astonishing details about them.

“There are still new worlds to discover in our own cosmic backyard,” concludes Gerdes. “The solar system is a rich and complicated place.”

The data from Blanco allowed the astronomers to decipher the distance and orbital properties of DeeDee. However, it was only with ALMA that they were able to calculate its size as well as other physical features. ALMA can identify heat released by cold objects in space, which is an indication of the size of these bodies. DeeDee is also known to be a cold world, with a temperature just above absolute zero.

Why is DeeDee important to us? According to the scientists, we can use the orbits and physical properties of bodies like DeeDee (which are considered to be leftovers from the creation of the solar system) to understand the formation of planets like ours.

ALMA Investigates ‘DeeDee,’ a Distant, Dim Member of Our Solar System


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