FarFarOut shifts FarOut as farthest object in solar system


FarFarOut shifts FarOut as farthest object in solar systemiStock / clearviewstock

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(CNN) – Go to FarOut and make way for FarFarOut.

FarOut was dubbed the farthest known object in our solar system in December. It was the first object found more than 100 times farther than the Earth is from the sun.

The distance between the Earth and the Sun is an astronomical unit or AU, the equivalent of about 93 million kilometers. FarOut is 120 AU from the sun. Eris, the next furthest known object, is 96 AU from the sun. In comparison, Pluto is 34 AU away.

FarFarOut is 140 AU from the sun. It was discovered on February 20 by Scott Sheppard, a team scientist with the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at Carnegie Institution for Science.

On that day, he would give a lecture called "Beyond Pluto: The Hunt for an Enormous Planet X", but was postponed until the next day because of bad weather. He had nothing to do, so he searched his team's data. And that's when he found FarFarOut.

"This is hot on the presses," Sheppard said. during his talk on Thursday. "It's very weak, at the limit of our ability to detect it. It was discovered in our data last month."

Based on its distance and brightness, it is probably about 400 kilometers in size and probably a dwarf object the size of the planet, Sheppard said. More observations will be needed to determine the orbit.

Researchers no longer know anything about the object, but Sheppard and his team hope to see it again with the Magellan telescope this week.

"We need to reassess the object again to confirm that it is far away," Sheppard wrote in an e-mail. "At the moment, we only observe Farfarout for 24 hours. These observations show that Farfarout has about 140 AU, but it can be between 130 and 150 AU as well."

Sheppard and his team are still in the process of observing FarOut and do not know their orbit either. This process may take a year or two of observations to discover, he said.

They believe that FarOut is a dwarf planet with more than 310 miles in diameter, with a pink hue. This color has been associated with objects that are rich in ice, and given their distance from the sun, this is not hard to believe. Its slow orbit probably takes more than 1,000 years to make a trip around the sun, the researchers said.

The object was found by Sheppard, David Tholen of the University of Hawaii, and Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University, and it is not their first discovery.

The team has been searching for a super-terrestrial planet on the edge of our solar system, known as Planet Nine or Planet X, since 2014. They first suggested the existence of this possible planet in 2014 after finding "Biden" in 84 AU. Along the way, they discovered more distant objects in the solar system, suggesting that the gravity of something massive is influencing their orbit.

FarOut was found using the 8-meter Japanese Subaru telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii in November. Follow-up observations with the Magellan telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile have determined its path, brightness and color.

In October, the team announced the discovery of the "Goblin" in 80 AU; is so called because the object of the distant solar system was first seen near Halloween.

These objects are unlikely to be influenced by the gravity of the gaseous giants Neptune and Uranus because they never get close enough to them – indicating that something else is determining their orbits.


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