New dwarf planet discovered on edge of solar system

JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle (SSC)
A new dwarf planet about half the size of Pluto has been discovered at the edge of our solar system, some 8.5 billion miles from the Sun.

The planet is called 2014 UZ224, measures about 530km (329 miles) in diameter and takes 1,100 years to orbit the Sun.

It was discovered by students from the University of Michigan and physicist David Gerdes, who uncovered it amongst a galaxy map created with his Dark Energy Camera (DECam) for a Dark Energy Survey project.

"Objects in the Solar System, when you observe them at one instant and then a little while later, they appear to be in a different place in the sky," Gerdes told NPR.

It took the team a number of years to confirm their findings through mapping the planet’s movement to prove it was the one object, a task that proved challenging.

“We often just have a single observation of the thing, on one night," said Gerdes. "And then two weeks later one observation, and then five nights later another observation, and four months later another observation. So the connecting-the-dots problem is much more challenging," Gerdes explained, adding that the students eventually developed computer software to assist with the observation.

Dwarf planets are described as resembling a planet but not actually being one. They are large enough to have become round thanks to gravitational attraction.

Five other dwarf planets have officially been recognized as being part of our solar system; Ceres, Eris, Haumea, Makemake, and Pluto. However, there are thought to be at least 100 more.

While 2014 UZ224 has been recognized by the International Astronomical Union, it won’t join the ranks of the existing five dwarf planets until further study has taken place.

700yrs to orbit Sun: New dwarf planet spotted beyond Neptune & Pluto