A large Kuiper Belt object discovered

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Astronomers have detected a new but very distant Kuiper Belt object.

For now, his team knows little more about their distant discovery other than its orbit and apparent brightness. Given its distance, however, the object should be sizable — anywhere from 400 km across (if its surface is bright and 50% reflective) to 1,200 km (if very dark and 5% reflective). If its true size edges toward the larger end of this range, then 2014 UZ224 would likely qualify for dwarf-planet status.

Fortunately, we should have a much better estimate of the object’s size very soon. Gerdes has used the ALMA radio-telescope array to measure the heat radiating from 2014 UZ224, which can be combined with the optical measurements to yield its size and albedo.

The object has a very eccentric 1,140 year orbit, coming as close to the sun as Pluto at its closest and almost five times farther away at its furthest.

Note: I have changed the article title because this new object is almost certainly not bigger the Pluto, as one of my readers pointed out.


  • Matt in AZ

    Pluto’s diameter is about 2,374km, so the quoted size range is rather smaller.

  • Localfluff

    Ceres is a bit short of 1,000 km in diameter and classified as dwarf planet.
    It feels as if the Kuiper Belt is growing. It used to be said that Pluto’s orbit spans the entire belt between peri- and aphelion (40-50 AU). But this object goes out to 150 AU and several objects even much further out have been found. There are protostellar disks which are even much larger still. Maybe the local interstellar space isn’t as empty as has been believed? This could facilitate future interstellar travel.

  • Localfluff

    Enceladus at 250 km is round, and a distant object should be made out of icy volatilities. Billions of tons of frozen methane ready to be picked up and used as rocket fuel and in fuel cells for heating and electric power, combined with oxygen from frozen water, which has to be heated to be processed, though. If the rocket engine can use methane that’s not pure, raw ice blocks could be used as fuel. Frozen methane is much easier to handle than liquefied dito. And there should be plenty of frozen nitrogen too, an inert gas useful both in rocket engines and a breathable atmosphere. God created the outer Solar System for exploration!

    Btw, the pressure in the center of Ceres (500 km deep) is lower than in the deepest Earth mine in operation today.

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