FarFarOut to Planet X? Astronomers Spot Most Distant Object in Solar System

Source:Sputnik Published: 2019/2/28 13:52:16

As Dr Sheppard and his colleagues scrupulously scoured the night sky with some of the world’s most powerful and wide-angled telescopes, their search netted the lion’s share of the objects known to be the farthest from the sun.

Scientists have accidentally spotted the most distant object (at least for now) in the solar system, and it appears to be far beyond Pluto.

The faint object is estimated to be around 140 times further away from the sun than the respective distance between the latter and planet Earth, which is commonly referred to as an astronomical unit.

The scientists arrived at their discovery while looking for the legendary giant Planet X, assumed to exist beyond Pluto, after Dr Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, set about analysing data off-schedule after his glitzy talk was postponed at the research institution due to a heavy snowfall. When Sheppard eventually took the floor, 24 hours later, he announced the discovery, though providing no further details since it was “hot off the presses”, Science quoted him as saying.

Astronomer Scott Sheppard just announced the most distant solar-system object yet found. Nicknamed "FarFarOut," it's 3.5 times farther from the Sun than Pluto. https:/t.co/XmWX21yYiw pic.twitter.com/KGj06QULYu

— Corey S. Powell (@coreyspowell) 22 февраля 2019 г.

The said object now bears a suggestive informal name FarFarOut, having broken the record for the most distant (until recently) object in the solar system: the object named FarOut is 120 AU away and was also discovered by Dr Sheppard last December.

Farout discovered December 2018, most distant object observed, orbit unknownhttps:/t.co/WmZqNN9KPc pic.twitter.com/S0bd23OTq4

— Tom Ruen (@Tom_Ruen) 22 февраля 2019 г.

Before that, the dwarf planet Eris was considered to be the farthest one in the solar system, lying 96 AU away from the sun. Pluto is meanwhile just 34 AU away.

FarOut’s and FarFarOut’s orbits, which are a still a mystery to be solved in the coming years, are the latest discovery from a decade-long research project that analyses data on the outermost corners of our solar system, provided by the most powerful optical telescopes to date, namely the Blanco 4-metre in Chile and the Subaru 8-metre in Hawaii.

For instance, given the distance that FarOut is away from us and the extraordinarily slow speed it is moving at, it may take a few years to determine its orbit and to what extent it is affected by the giant planets’ gravitational tug.  It has been so far preliminarily estimated that it may take FarOut more than 1,000 years to orbit the sun.

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