Astronomers have discovered the most distant object ever found in our solar system.
The planet – the term for a small piece of rock, dust, or ice orbiting the sun – is called “Farfarout” after the former record holder, “Farout,” which was discovered by the same astronomers in 2018. Years after While observing the object’s path across the sky, the team of researchers announced on Wednesday that they can confidently say that Farfarout is, well, much farther than any solar system object they have seen before.
Farfarout is located 132 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, which means it is 132 times farther from the sun than Earth, and about four times the distance of Pluto. It takes about 1,000 years for the planet to complete one orbit around the sun.
Researchers estimate that Farfarout is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide, which puts it at the low end of being a dwarf planet like Pluto.
“Farfarout’s discovery demonstrates our increased ability to map the outer solar system and observe farther and farther towards the edges of our solar system,” said Scott Sheppard, one of the astronomers who discovered the object. Press release. Sheppard is a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
He added: “Only with the developments in the past few years of large digital cameras on very large telescopes has it become possible to efficiently detect things as far away as Farfarout.” “Although some of these distant objects are very large – the size of dwarf planets – they are very faint due to their extreme distances from the sun. Farfarout is just the tip of an iceberg for solar system bodies in the very distant Solar System.”
Finding and studying other similar objects could help scientists determine if an unknown massive planet is hiding in the outskirts of our solar system. Scientists have found hints of such a planet, it is often referred to as The ninth planet or the tenth planet, In the distant darkness. These clues come in the form of smaller bodies whose orbital trajectories appear to be skewed.
Farfarout probably couldn’t contribute to the effort, because Neptune appears to have drastically altered its orbit.
An excerpt from the orbit of 1,000 years
Farfarout crosses the path of Neptune every time it orbits the sun, and its orbit is elongated in an oval shape. At some point in the cycle, it approaches our star as 27 AU. But it is also 175 AU from the sun. Scientists believe that this strange orbit is due to the strong gravitational force of Neptune.
“Farfarot’s orbital dynamics can help us understand how Neptune was formed and evolved, as Farfarot was likely thrown into the outer solar system by getting very close to Neptune in the distant past,” says Chad Trujillo, an astronomer at the University of Northern Arizona who He co-discovered a new object, he said in the release. “Farfarout will likely interact with Neptune again in the future because their orbits are still intersecting.”
The Subaru Telescope, located over Maunakea in Hawaii, first observed the planet in January 2018.
“All we know is that the object appeared to be very far away at the time of discovery,” Sheppard said.
It took years of observation to realize just how remote it was. Because Farfarout takes so long to circle the sun, it moves very slowly across the sky. Astronomers had to monitor it for years in order to have enough data to calculate its trajectory.
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center officially designated Farfarout as “2018 AG37” object on Wednesday. Planet Earth will get a more official name later, after more observations enable scientists to determine its exact orbital path.
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