A team of researchers from various U.S. universities has found what it believes to be a new dwarf planet in the distant reaches of our solar system, a new study in The Astrophysical Journal Letters reports.
The small, chilly world is known as UZ224 or DeeDee. Researchers first spotted the body in 2014 with the Blanco optical telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. However, they did not have the means to gather sufficient information at that time.
Now, the team knows that DeeDee sits roughly 92 astronomical units from the sun and its orbit is an elliptical path that takes 1,100 Earth years to complete. In addition, the world is also the second most distant trans-Neptunian object with an orbit, making the case that DeeDee is a dwarf planet.
Most dwarf planets are determined by two factors: size and shape. However, though researchers initially believed DeeDee to be a dwarf planet, they did not have the information necessary to make that claim. To overcome this, the team in the recent study used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array radio telescope in Chile to get a better idea of what the world looked like, Tech Times reports.
The device allowed researchers to pick up DeeDee’s heat signature, which is directly proportional to the celestial object’s size. That enabled scientists to gather more information about the body and break down its components. Their findings, mixed with recent ALMA data, gave them a way to determine the world’s temperature, brightness, size, and shape.
“We calculated that this object would be incredibly cold, only about 30 degrees Kelvin, just a little above absolute zero,” said lead author David Gerdes, an astronomer at the University of Michigan, in a statement.
DeeDee is roughly about 227 miles in diameter and has enough mass to be spherical. In addition, it reflects just 13 percent of the sun’s light. While that is a low number, it makes sense based on where the icy world sits in the cosmos.
This information is the first step towards understanding the world, and researchers hope they can learn more information about the body in the future. While the case for DeeDee being a dwarf planet is still up for debate, the study is important because it shows that astronomers are able to study the deep outer solar system. Scientists hope the techniques used in the research could one day help find other distant planets.
“There are still new worlds to discover in our own cosmic backyard,” added Gerdes, according to Space.com. “The solar system is a rich and complicated place.”