The Solar System’s Black Sheep

Published by The Critograph on April 26, 2017
Katherine Graves, Copy Desk Chief-

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Illustration by Genevieve Griffin on April 25, 2017.

Astronomers may have identified our solar system’s seventh dwarf planet, 2014 UZ224, informally called “DeeDee” meaning “Distant Dwarf.” Most people are aware of the classification-debated dwarf planet Pluto, but our solar system contains five other confirmed dwarf planets that are arguably rarely discussed.

Dwarf planets are similar to planets except the gravity of dwarf planets is not enough to clear their orbits of lesser objects, such as asteroids, according to Space.com.

Our known dwarf planets are Pluto, Ceres, Makemake, Haumea, Eris and 2007 OR10.

Ceres is the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The rest of the dwarf planets orbit primarily past Neptune, according to NASA’s website.

Our newest potential dwarf planet DeeDee was discovered in 2014. DeeDee is currently the second farthest confirmed “trans-Neptunian object,” only surpassed by Eris, although that may change with their orbits, as stated by Space.com.

Data from studying DeeDee shows that the dwarf planet is 395 miles wide, meaning it has enough mass for it to be sphere-shaped, which is part of the criteria for being classified as a dwarf planet. However, Dee has yet to be given the full title, as reported by Space.com.

The dwarf planet Ceres was discovered in 1802 and classified as a dwarf planet in 2006.

“Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and the only dwarf planet located in the inner solar system,” according to NASA’s website.

Some scientists believe Ceres could potentially contain life forms because its icy surface contains water.

“Living things on Ceres, if they are there at all, would likely be very small microbes similar to bacteria. And while Ceres might not have living things today, there could be signs it harbored life in the past,” as explained by NASA’s website.

Roughly the size of Texas, Ceres was previously believed to be an asteroid. This dwarf planet has no moons.

Ceres’s name originates from the Roman goddess of corn and harvests.

The dwarf planet Eris was discovered in 2003. It is about the same size as Pluto; both dwarf planets are smaller than Earth’s moon, according to NASA’s website.

Eris is named after the Greek goddess of discord and its moon is named after Eris’ daughter, the demon goddess of lawlessness, Dysnomia.

Haumea was also discovered in 2003.

“Haumea is one of the fastest rotating large objects in our solar system. It completes a turn on its axis every four hours,” stated NASA’s website.

The dwarf planet has two identified moons called Hi’aka and Namaka.

“Haumea is named for the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth and fertility. Its moons are named for daughters of Haumea. Hi’aka is the patron goddess of Hawaii and of hula dancers. Namaka is a water spirit in Hawaiian mythology,” expresses the NASA website.

Makemake was discovered in 2005 and was recognized as a dwarf planet in 2008.

“[It] holds an important place in the solar system because it—along with Eris—was one of the objects whose discovery prompted the International Astronomical Union to reconsider the definition of a planet and to create the new group of dwarf planets,” according to NASA’s website.

Makemake is named after the Rapanui god of fertility.

The dwarf planet 2007 OR10, nicknamed “Snow White,” was discovered in 2007 and is our third largest dwarf planet.

According to NASA’s website, Snow White is one of our solar system’s slowest orbiting bodies, completing its orbit in around 45 hours. They also state that Snow White or 2007 OR10 is still formally unnamed and will remain that way until its discoverers decide on a name.

As for the most well-known dwarf planet, Pluto was discovered in 1930 and reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.

Pluto has five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx.

Pluto’s moon Charon, almost half the size of Pluto, is so large that “Pluto and Charon are sometimes referred to as a double-dwarf planet system,” according to NASA’s website.

Pluto was named after the Roman god of the underworld and its moons are named for other mythological figures associated with the underworld.

Charon is the boatman of the river Styx. Nix is the goddess of night and darkness and Charon’s mother. Hydra is the nine-headed snake guarding the underworld. Kerberos is the three-headed dog that keeps the dead from leaving the underworld. Styx is the river between the worlds of the living and the dead.

According to NASA’s website, “Scientists believe there may be dozens or even more than 100 dwarf planets awaiting discovery.”

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