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Have We Discovered a New Dwarf Planet?

August 20, 2018


It’s been over ten years since the whole ordeal, but a lot of people still don’t seem to be over the fact that Pluto isn’t a planet. Back in 2006, the International Astronomical Union officially defined what makes a planet a planet, and Pluto didn’t qualify - a story you can read about here.


Currently, the official definition of a planet means it has to meet three criteria: it must orbit a star, have enough mass to take on a spherical shape, and its gravitation has to be strong enough for it to have its orbital path basically to itself, clear of any other major objects.


Anything that meets the first two conditions, but not the third, is called a dwarf planet. Pluto is a dwarf planet. And now, it may have a friend.


Recently, a group of astronomers announced that they’d discovered a new possible dwarf planet in our Solar System.


For now, it’s going by the catchy name of V-774104, and it’s the farthest object ever detected in the Solar System. As our technology improves, astronomers have been finding more and more worlds beyond Neptune’s orbit, including what used to be the most distant dwarf planet-sized object we knew of previously: 2012-VP-113, more commonly known as Biden.


Sometime in October, the same team that analyzed Biden’s orbit was using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii to scan the distant reaches of the Solar System when they noticed a moving dot that had never been seen before. That was the new possible dwarf planet, and it was incredibly far away.


To give you some perspective, when Biden is closest to the Sun, it’s still about twelve billion kilometers (seven trillion miles) away. But this newly-found rock is about 20% further than that! We just don’t know where exactly it is in its orbit, because there hasn’t been enough time to track it yet - that will take about another year.


For all we know, at some point it might end up closer to the Sun than Biden does. Still, at least we’re aware that we can spot worlds more than a hundred times farther from the Sun than we are.


And, at the very least, we might have a new dwarf planet to study. So welcome to the neighborhood, V-774104!


Thank you for choosing SkyFeed! Be sure to follow my social media (Instagram: @astrolia) and subscribe to get the best of space exploration delivered to your inbox every week.


Source: This story was originally published on SciShow Space. I am republishing a lightly edited version on SkyFeed in light of interest on the subject. Hofmeister, Caitlin. "A New Dwarf Planet?" SciShow Space, YouTube. 19 Nov, 2015. Web video.

Citation: Rovira, Lia N. "Have We Discovered a New Dwarf Planet?" SkyFeed. 20 Aug, 2018. Web article.

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