Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















OUTER PLANETS
ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system
by Staff Writers
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Apr 13, 2017


Artist concept of the planetary body 2014 UZ224, more informally known as DeeDee. ALMA was able to observe the faint millimeter-wavelength "glow" emitted by the object, confirming it is roughly 635 kilometers across. At this size, DeeDee should have enough mass to be spherical, the criteria necessary for astronomers to consider it a dwarf planet, though it has yet to receive that official designation. Image courtesy Alexandra Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have revealed extraordinary details about a recently discovered far-flung member of our solar system, the planetary body 2014 UZ224, more informally known as DeeDee.

At about three times the current distance of Pluto from the Sun, DeeDee is the second most distant known trans-Neptunian object (TNO) with a confirmed orbit, surpassed only by the dwarf planet Eris. Astronomers estimate that there are tens-of-thousands of these icy bodies in the outer solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The new ALMA data reveal, for the first time, that DeeDee is roughly 635 kilometers across, or about two-thirds the diameter of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest member of our asteroid belt. At this size, DeeDee should have enough mass to be spherical, the criteria necessary for astronomers to consider it a dwarf planet, though it has yet to receive that official designation.

"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."

Currently, DeeDee is about 92 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. An astronomical unit is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, or about 150 million kilometers. At this tremendous distance, it takes DeeDee more than 1,100 years to complete one orbit. Light from DeeDee takes nearly 13 hours to reach Earth.

Gerdes and his team announced the discovery of DeeDee in the fall of 2016. They found it 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, an optical survey of about 12 percent of the sky that seeks to understand the as-yet mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.

The Dark Energy Survey produces vast troves of astronomical images, which give astronomers the opportunity to also search for distant solar system objects. The initial search, which includes nearly 15,000 images, identified more than 1.1 billion candidate objects. The vast majority of these turned out to be background stars and even more distant galaxies. A small fraction, however, were observed to move slowly across the sky over successive observations, the telltale sign of a TNO.

One such object was identified on 12 separate images. The astronomers informally dubbed it DeeDee, which is short for Distant Dwarf.

The optical data from the Blanco telescope enabled the astronomers to measure DeeDee's distance and orbital properties, but they were unable to determine its size or other physical characteristics. It was possible that DeeDee was a relatively small member of our solar system, yet reflective enough to be detected from Earth. Or, it could be uncommonly large and dark, reflecting only a tiny portion of the feeble sunlight that reaches it; both scenarios would produce identical optical data.

Since ALMA observes the cold, dark universe, it is able to detect the heat - in the form of millimeter-wavelength light - emitted naturally by cold objects in space. The heat signature from a distant solar system object would be directly proportional to its size.

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

While the reflected visible light from DeeDee is only about as bright as a candle seen halfway the distance to the moon, ALMA was able to quickly home in on the planetary body's heat signature and measure its brightness in millimeter-wavelength light.

This allowed astronomers to determine that it reflects only about 13 percent of the sunlight that hits it. 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 it up fairly easily," said Gerdes. "We were then able to resolve the ambiguity we had with the optical data alone."

Objects like DeeDee are cosmic leftovers from the formation of the solar system. Their orbits and physical properties reveal important details about the formation of planets, including Earth.

This discovery is also exciting because it shows that it is possible to detect very distant, slowly moving objects in our own solar system. The researchers note that these same techniques could be used to detect the hypothesized "Planet Nine" that may reside far beyond DeeDee and Eris.

"There are still new worlds to discover in our own cosmic backyard," concludes Gerdes. "The solar system is a rich and complicated place."

OUTER PLANETS
Hubble spots auroras on Uranus
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Apr 12, 2017
This is a composite image of Uranus by Voyager 2 and two different observations made by Hubble - one for the ring and one for the auroras. Ever since Voyager 2 beamed home spectacular images of the planets in the 1980s, planet-lovers have been hooked on auroras on other planets. Auroras are caused by streams of charged particles like electrons that come from various origins such as solar winds, ... read more

Related Links
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
The million outer planets of a star called Sol

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

OUTER PLANETS
Two Russians, one American land back on Earth from ISS

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatosphere: ISS Science to the Classroom

NASA Invests in 22 Visionary Exploration Concepts

No Roscosmos plans to send space tourists to ISS before 2020

OUTER PLANETS
Dream Chaser to use Europe's next-generation docking system

Europe's largest sounding rocket launched from Esrange

Bezos sells $1 bn in Amazon stock yearly to pay for rocket firm

US-Russia Venture Hopes to Sell More RD-180 Rocket Engines to US

OUTER PLANETS
Mars spacecraft's first missions face delays, NASA says

Opportunity Mars rover on the way to Perseverance Valley

France, Japan aim to land probe on Mars moon

NASA's MAVEN reveals Mars has metal in its atmosphere

OUTER PLANETS
Yuanwang fleet to carry out 19 space tracking tasks in 2017

China Develops Spaceship Capable of Moon Landing

Long March-7 Y2 ready for launch of China's first cargo spacecraft

China Seeks Space Rockets Launched from Airplanes

OUTER PLANETS
Airbus and Intelsat team up for more capacity

Commercial Space Operators To Canada: "We're Here, and We can Help"

Antenna Innovation Benefits the Government Customer

Ukraine in talks with ESA to become member

OUTER PLANETS
Humans to Mars Official NASA Goal, But What About Radiation

Recent advances and new insights into quantum image processing

NASA Fellow studies new heatshield-making technique

Despite EU fines, Greece struggling to promote recycling

OUTER PLANETS
The earliest animals were marine jellies

Scientists look for life's building blocks in outer space

Earth-Sized 'Tatooine' Planets Could Be Habitable

Distantly related fish find same evolutionary solution to dark water

OUTER PLANETS
ALMA investigates 'DeeDee,' a distant, dim member of our solar system

Nap Time for New Horizons

Hubble spots auroras on Uranus

Cold' Great Spot discovered on Jupiter




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement