Orbits of objects in our solar system, showing the current location of the planetary body ‘DeeDee.’ Credit: Alexandra Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)
Scientists have spotted another mysterious object lurking the outermost reaches of our solar system. It is ‘uncommonly large’, and reflected only around 13 percent of the sunlight that reached it.
Astronomers exploring our solar system have found ANOTHER planetary body lurking at the outermost edge of our solar system. They’ve named it DeeDee.
DeeDee—short for Distant Dwarf—was in fact first discovered in fall of 2016, but astronomers hat very little knowledge about the object and its physical structure.
The enigmatic object was found using the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile as part of ongoing observations for the Dark Energy Survey
Now, thanks to new data gathered by astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), experts have obtained fresh data about the true nature of the enigmatic object: It is much larger than scientists expected it to be.
Experts have revealed that DeeDee is approximately two-thirds the size of dwarf planet Ceres—the largest member that inhabits our solar system’s asteroid belt, and has enough mass to be spherical.
DeeDee is located some 92 astronomical units (AU) from the sun—or nearly 140 million kilometers.
It takes DeeDee more than 1,100 years to complete a single orbit around our sun.
In fact, the mystery objects is so far away from Earth that it takes 13 hours for light from DeeDee to reach our planet.
ALMA image of the faint millimeter-wavelength “glow” from the planetary body 2014 UZ224, more informally known as DeeDee. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
These characteristics make DeeDee the second most distant trans-Neptunian object—with an orbit only second to dwarf planet Eris.
A trans-Neptunian object (TNO) is any minor planet in the Solar System that orbits the Sun at a greater average distance (semi-major axis) than Neptune, 30 astronomical units (AU). The largest known trans-Neptunian object is Pluto, followed by Eris, 2007 OR10, Makemake, and Haumea.
“Far beyond Pluto is a region surprisingly rich with planetary bodies. Some are quite small but others have sizes to rival Pluto, and could possibly be much larger,” said David Gerdes, a scientist with the University of Michigan and lead author on a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Because these objects are so distant and dim, it’s incredibly difficult to even detect them, let alone study them in any detail. ALMA, however, has unique capabilities that enabled us to learn exciting details about these distant worlds.”
Scientists believe that discovering objects like DeeDee is extremely important since they are the remnants from the creation of our solar system.
DeeDee is also an extremely cold world.
“We calculated that this object would be incredibly cold, only about 30 degrees Kelvin, just a little above absolute zero,” said Gerdes.
Interestingly, using DeeDee’s heat signature, experts were only then able to confirm the dwarf planet was ‘freakishly large’, but it was so dark that it only reflected around 13 percent of the sunlight that reached it.
The research has been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.