Farfarout is confirmed as the furthest known object from Earth

Cindy Fernández 1 hour ago 5 min
farfarout, planet, astronomy, solar system
Illustration of Farfarout, the Sun and the Milky Way. CREDIT: NOIRLAB / NSF / AURA / J. DA SILVA

Farfarout was first seen in January 2018 by the Subaru telescope, located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Its discoverers could say that it was far away, but they weren’t sure exactly how far. After collecting observations for more than 2 years, the team of astronomers was able to confirm this week that it is definitely the most distant object found so far in our Solar System. Is almost four times farther from the Sun than Pluto, that is, about 20,000 million kilometers.

Farfarout’s current distance is 132 astronomical units (au). An astronomical unit is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. By comparison, Pluto is only 34 au from the Sun. The newly discovered object has a very elongated elliptical orbit, which takes it to 175 au at its most distant point, already 27 ua when it approaches and enters the orbit of Neptune.

Based on the brightness and distance from the Sun, the team of David Tholen of UH Mānoa, Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University, estimates that Farfarout It is about 400 kilometers wide, and is at the lower end to be designated a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

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The influence of Neptune

Objects at such extreme distances need to be rastretched for longer periods because it takes them forever to travel around the Sun. Farfarout is much further away than the previous Solar System distance record holder, which was discovered by the same team, is 124 ua and is known as “Farout” (in English, “Far” is far).

The journey of this object around the Sun it takes about a thousand years. “A single orbit of Farfarout around the Sun takes a millennium,” said David Tholen, who is part of the team. “We think orbits like these occur when the object gets too close to Neptune. Because Neptune is a giant planet, if something is in a circular orbit (like many of the Kuiper Belt Objects) but gets too close to Neptune, it can disturb its trajectory and launch the object further than it was initially. But the closest approach will always be close to Neptune. “

Where exactly Farfarout came from is not yet known, especially since it will be a long time before we can get any spacecraft to visit an object in the far reaches of the Solar System. Astronomers they still don’t know if it formed near Neptune or if Neptune captured it, but they believe that it is unlikely to come from outside our System.

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“Farfarout’s discovery shows our growing ability to map the outer Solar System”Sheppard said. “Only with the advances in recent years of large digital cameras in huge telescopes was it possible to efficiently discover very distant objects like Farfarout. Although some are quite large, being a dwarf planet, they look faint due to their extreme distances from the Sun. Farfarout is just the tip of the iceberg of objects that can be found in the very distant solar system. “

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