Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mysterious Dwarf Planet Discovered at The End of The Solar System

Mysterious Dwarf Planet Discovered at The End of The Solar System

University of British Columbia

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A new dwarf planet was spotted by an international team of astronomers orbiting in the disk of  icy worlds beyond the planet Neptune. Although the exact size of this object is still unknown, scientists estimate it to be about 700 kilometers in diameter or nearly one-and-a-half times Vancouver Island’s size.

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center temporarily named this planet 2015 RR245. Its highly elliptical orbit is one of the biggest found for a dwarf planet. The team spotted it last February using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope located in Maunakea, Hawaii during their Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) project. Although OSSOS has been studying over 500 trans-Neptunian objects, RR245 is the largest discovery and the only dwarf planet it found.

“Finding a new dwarf planet beyond Neptune sheds light on the early phases of planet formation,” points out research member Brett Gladman, the Canada Research Chair in planetary astronomy at the  University of British Columbia. “Since most of these icy worlds are incredibly small and faint, it’s exciting to find a bright one that is easier to study, and which is on an interesting orbit.”

Dwarf Planet
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii. Credit: Marcel VanDalfsen

Like most dwarf planets, RR245 was either obliterated or thrown from the solar system as the giant planets settled to the positions they’re in right now. The newly discovered dwarf planet is just one of the few that still exist right now. Pluto and Eris, the largest known dwarf planets,  are other examples.

Scientists believe that RR245 has been on its orbit in the last 100 million years. More studies on this newly found dwarf planet are still needed but once we know more about it, scientists can give it another name. Like anyone who discovers a cosmic object, the team will submit the name they want to give this planet to the International Astronomical Union.