Astronomers locate most-distant object in solar system and name it ‘Farout’

'This discovery is truly an international achievement,' researchers say after revealing findings of pink cosmic body

Chris Riotta
New York
@chrisriotta
Monday 17 December 2018 22:55
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Scientists find mysterious object hovering at the edge of our solar system

Astronomers have identified what they believe is the farthest known object in our solar system, appropriately naming the pink cosmic body “Farout”.

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre said the discovery was made last month using a telescope in Hawaii.

“This discovery is truly an international achievement in research using telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile, operated by Japan, as well as by a consortium of research institutions and universities in the United States,” Chad Trujillo, one of the researchers credited with the discovery, said in a statement.

He added, “With new wide-field digital cameras on some of the world’s largest telescopes, we are finally exploring our Solar System’s fringes, far beyond Pluto.”

Farout is located nearly 11 billion miles away — or 120 astronomical units — and is estimated to span nearly 310 miles (500 kilometres).

The cosmic body could take more than 1,000 years to orbit the sun. However, experts note the exact length of its orbit remains unclear since the object is so far away.

Scott Sheppard, who studies small bodies in the solar system at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said Monday it could take astronomers several years to determine the trajectory of Farout’s exact orbit.

“[Farout] is much more distant and slower moving than any other observed Solar System object, so it will take a few years to fully determine its orbit,“ he said as part of the announcement on Monday. “But it was found in a similar location on the sky to the other known extreme Solar System objects, suggesting it might have the same type of orbit that most of them do.”

“The orbital similarities shown by many of the known small, distant Solar System bodies was the catalyst for our original assertion that there is a distant, massive planet at several hundred AU shepherding these smaller objects,“ he added.

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Farout has surpassed the previous record-holder for the furthest object in the solar system.

The title used to belong to Eris, a dwarf planet nearly 96 astronomical units away.

Additional reporting by AP

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