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

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

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

David Gerdes, an expert from the University of MI, said in an earlier statement that observing and studying objects that are far and dim poses a great challenge for astronomers. Good news for them: a new study suggests that the dwarf planet club could get another member, in the form of a very small, distant object located roughly 92 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. In order to be recognised as such, an object must orbit the Sun but can not be a satellite (like a moon), must have enough mass to be spherical, and has not cleared its planetary neighbourhood of debris.

We now know more about a recently-discovered planetary body, nicknamed DeeDee, spotted in our very own solar system. 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 past year.

Eris, the solar system's most distant dwarf planet, has an elliptical orbit that takes it from 37.9 AU at perihelion to 98 AU at aphelion and is now located about 96.5 AU from the Sun.

Designated as 2014 UZ224 and informally nicknamed DeeDee for "Distant Dwarf", the object is estimated to be 395 miles (635 km) wide and massive enough to have attained hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning it is squeezed into a round or almost round shape by its own gravity. But the discovery was not announced until December 2016.

UZ224 is now the second-most distant known trans-Neptunian object with reported orbital elements, surpassed in distance only by the dwarf planet Eris. The orbit of DeeDee is so wide that it takes the world 1,100 years to complete just one round of the Sun. An object like 2014 UZ224 could be large and dark or small and bright.

"We calculated that this object would be incredibly cold, only about 30 degrees Kelvin, just a little above absolute zero", said Gerdes.

ALMA's measurements of its brightness in millimeter-wavelength light revealed it to be a dark object that reflects just 13 percent of incoming sunlight. That is about the same reflectivity of the dry dirt found on a baseball infield.

By comparing these ALMA observations to the earlier optical data, the astronomers had the information necessary to calculate the object's size. ALMA picked up the faraway object's heat signature, which is directly proportional to its size.

The optical data from the Victor Blanco telescope enabled the team to measure UZ224's distance and orbital properties, but they were unable to determine its size or other physical characteristics. Gaining a deeper understanding about how and when they were formed could help scientists solve one of the greatest mysteries of planetary science - how did the planets of the Solar System originate? Their orbits and physical properties reveal important details about the formation of planets, including Earth. The researchers note that these same techniques could be used to detect the hypothesized "Planet Nine" that may reside far beyond DeeDee and Eris.

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