Our solar system family is getting larger with the discovery of a new dwarf planet found orbiting beyond Pluto. This new dwarf planet doesn’t have a fancy name like the major planets of the solar system, it’s called 2014 UZ224 and is about 330-miles across. This little dwarf planet is about 8.5 billion miles away from the sun. Interestingly the dwarf planet is smaller than Pluto’s moon Charon, which is about 750 miles in diameter.
It takes the 2014 UZ224 dwarf planet about 1,100 Earth years to orbit the sun compared to 248-Earth years for Pluto to make a single orbit around the sun. Scientist David Gerdes says that the new dwarf planet was discovered using a tool called the Dark Energy Camera (DECam). DECam wasn’t built to search for new dwarf planets, it was built to observe the movement of galaxies and supernovas as they move away from the Earth.
For this mission the DECam takes images of a few small patches of sky about once each week. The distance stars and galaxies are from Earth means that they stay in virtually the same place each week while objects closer to Earth move more over the course of weeks. Gerdes assigned some undergraduates to look for unidentified solar system objects in these images and after two years the 2014 UZ224 dwarf planet was confirmed. At this point its orbit path is unknown.
However, the team of scientsts on the project think that the dwarf planet is the third most-distant object in the solar systme.One potential catch is that Gerdes isn’t sure that 2014 UZ224 will be large enough to be considered a dwarf planet. That will be decided by the International Astronomical Union, the same group that demoted Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet. Currently the dwarf planet Ceres is the smallest such object in the solar system at 590 miles across.