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New Dwarf Planet Discovered Way Out to Keep Pluto Company

Image: New Dwarf Planet Discovered Way Out to Keep Pluto Company

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By    |   Wednesday, 12 Oct 2016 12:14 PM

A new dwarf planet has been discovered, right here in our solar system, and eases any pain that Pluto seems so far out there without much company, save an occasional spaceship.

The new “Iowa-sized” planet, about half as big as Pluto and twice as distant, was described Tuesday in the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Electronic Circulator, according to The Washington Post.

The new discovery joins a long list of dwarf planets in the solar system — planets like Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, Eris and Pluto of course. These are just a few, though, as it’s suspected there are at least 100 more, The Post noted.

The “trans-Neptunian object,” which is now being called 2014 UZ224, was discovered by University of Michigan astrophysicist David Gerdes and a team of undergraduate researchers.

Gerdes is part of an international team of scientists currently working on the Dark Energy Survey — an effort to map the universe, The Post noted. Well, to do a dark energy survey, one needs a dark energy camera, which is capable of capturing images of the sky as a whole.

According to The Post, Gerdes was supervising some undergraduate researchers a few years ago and wanted to provide them with a challenge. So, he gave them one of the camera’s maps of the entire galaxy. Upon giving them the map, Gerdes challenged the students on being able to determine which objects were part of our own solar system.

The secret to the assignment was to identify the moving objects. As a result, both Gerdes and the students were able to develop software that could pinpoint those carefully moving objects, The Post noted.

The same software was used when they came across UZ224 this summer.

“The fact that we can find a very distant, very slow-moving object like this in our survey,” Gerdes said, “is a promising sign that if there’s more things like this out there, we have a good shot at finding them.”

According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the discovery by Gerdes and his students is something that astronomers have never seen before.

First, confirmation of the discovery took two years due to necessary tracking that had to be conducted.

Second, 2014 UZ224’s exact path is still unclear, as the dwarf planet takes over 1,000 years to complete a single loop of the sun, ADN noted.

Third, UZ224 is considered to be the third most-distant object in the solar system, and Gerdes says it’s pretty small, even for a dwarf planet.

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A new dwarf planet has been discovered, right here in our solar system, and eases any pain that Pluto seems so far out there without much company, save an occasional spaceship.
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2016-14-12
Wednesday, 12 Oct 2016 12:14 PM
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