Beacon Transcript – 2014 UZ224 is a new celestial body that was discovered in the outer skirts of our galaxy and will be joining Pluto in the dwarf planet family.
The discovery of the new planet is attributed to a team of scientists and University of Michigan undergraduates. The team leader, physics professor David Gerdes, gave his visiting students a mission and challenge, they were to spot the celestial bodies hiding in our Solar System.
The task was not an easy one, as Gerdes explained, as our Solar System’s hidden objects are hard to detect because, in most cases, the respective object’s observations come irregularly and possibly far in-between and can span across days, months or even years.
As distant stars and galaxies often offer an insignificant change in position across a bigger number of observations and appear to be standing still, the software used in order to discover the new planet, which was developed by the students, managed to register the slight movement of 2014 UZ224 which placed her in the outer corners of our system and not farther beyond.
As the third furthest planet from the Sun, 2014 UZ224 is an approximated 8.5 billion miles away from our heat source and has a complete orbit rotation of about 1,100 years.
Besides its great distance, its size was another factor which contributed in the planet previously unknown status. Small even for a dwarf planet it is only 330 miles across and doesn’t come close even to its bigger brother, Pluto, who at 1,475 miles is considered to be the largest planet of its category and has a complete orbit rotation span of 248 years.
The team decided to place 2014 UZ224 in the dwarf planet category after its continued appearance and change in position observed in their star mappings. The outer-space object was observed one night and continued to be seen after two weeks, then five days after the latest record and then after four months.
According to the International Astronomical Union (AU), a celestial body can be considered a dwarf planet if it follows a certain set of rules, one being that it has to orbit our Sun. It also has to possess enough mass so as to generate self-gravity and assure a hydrostatic equilibrium shape. Contrary to popular belief, dwarf planets are not satellites and have an orbit of their own.
The dwarf family includes, at the moment, Pluto – as the largest, Ceres, Eris, Haumea, Makemake and now 2014 UZ224.
Image Source: Wikimedia