Astronomers discovered the most distant object of the Solar System. FarFarOut, a massive chunk of rock discovered in 2018 at an impressive distance of approximately 132 astronomical units from the Sun, was analyzed and characterized. Now there is more data about it and its orbit.
It is approximately 400 kilometres across, which is on the low scale of what scientists label as a dwarf planet.
The initial analysis says that it has an average orbital distance of 101 astronomical units, approximately 101 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.
Pluto has a regular orbital distance of about 39 astronomical units, FarFarOut, which is genuinely very far out.
It received the formal name 2018 AG37, and its right name, in accordance with the International Astronomical Union guidelines is still waiting for approval.
The orbit, though, isn’t a right circle around our Sun, but more likely a lopsided oval. After close analysis, scientists determined its orbit.
FarFarOut swings out nearly 175 astronomical units, and it comes as near as 27 astronomical units, inside Neptune’s orbit.
That means that the orbit may help scientists better understand the planets that are part of the outer Solar System.
Chad Trujillo, an astronomer of the Northern Arizona University, said:
“FarFarOut was likely thrown into the outer Solar System by getting too close to Neptune in the distant past […] FarFarOut will likely interact with Neptune again in the future since their orbits still intersect.”
The object’s name evolved from the discovery of an earlier distant object in 2018.
Farout, the dwarf planet averages an orbital distance of 124 astronomical units, and it received its name after an exclamation of the astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
When he and his colleagues discovered an ever more distant object, the progression was only logical.
FarFarOut is still a mystery, though. Because it is so far away and faint, and it was only observed nine times over the past two years.
The team has figured out its size according to its brightness, but they didn’t find much else. It may be a huge irregular Kuiper Belt object or meet the criteria to be labelled as a dwarf planet.
Also, the astronomers aren’t entirely sure about the orbit time. They figured out it may be just shy of 800 years (in contrast to Pluto’s 248), but there is a lot of wiggle room for it to take more than twice that estimate or move at a faster speed.
“FarFarOut takes a millennium to go around the Sun once,” stated astronomer David Tholen of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. “Because of this, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to precisely determine its trajectory.”
Sheppard, Tholen and Trujillo are studying the outer area of our Solar System hoping to acquire a glimpse of Planet Nine, a hypothetical object believed to be the reason why some clusters of objects are moving in the outer reaches beyond Pluto.
Other explanations can justify those orbits, but the work is registering a convenient side-benefit – The researchers found several objects that we never knew about. There is also a dwarf planet called The Goblin, found at a distance of about 80 astronomical units.