Wednesday, March 3, 2021


 From SciTechDaily:

A team, including an astronomer from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA), have confirmed a planetoid that is almost four times farther from the Sun than Pluto, making it the most distant object ever observed in our solar system. The planetoid, nicknamed “Farfarout,” was first detected in 2018, and the team has now collected enough observations to pin down the orbit. The Minor Planet Center has now given it the official designation of 2018 AG37.

Farfarout’s name distinguished it from the previous record holder “Farout,” found by the same team of astronomers in 2018. The team includes UH Mānoa’s David Tholen, Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University, who have an ongoing survey to map the outer solar system beyond Pluto.

Farfarout’s current distance from the Sun is 132 astronomical units (au); 1 au is the distance between the Earth and Sun. For comparison, Pluto is only 34 au from the Sun. The newly discovered object has a very elongated orbit that takes it out to 175 au at its most distant, and inside the orbit of Neptune, to around 27 au, when it is closest to the Sun.

Farfarout’s journey around the Sun takes about a thousand years, crossing the giant planet Neptune’s orbit every time. This means Farfarout has probably experienced strong gravitational interactions with Neptune over the age of the solar system, and is the reason why it has such a large and elongated orbit.

“A single orbit of Farfarout around the Sun takes a millennium,” said Tholen. “Because of this long orbital period, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to precisely determine its trajectory.” (Read more.)


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