Astronomers discover solar system’s most distant object, nicknamed “FarFarOut”

Science | AAAS | 2/21/2019 | Staff
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Astronomers discover solar system’s most distant object, nicknamed “FarFarOut”

For most people, snow days aren’t very productive. Some people, though, use the time to discover the most distant object in the solar system.

Scott - Sheppard - Astronomer - Carnegie - Institution

That’s what Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., did this week when a snow squall shut down the city. A glitzy public talk he was due to deliver was delayed, so he hunkered down and did what he does best: sifted through telescopic views of the solar system’s fringes that his team had taken last month during their search for a hypothesized ninth giant planet.

That’s when he saw it, a faint object at a distance 140 times farther from the sun than Earth — the farthest solar system object yet known, some 3.5 times more distant than Pluto. The object, if confirmed, would break his team’s own discovery, announced in December, of a dwarf planet 120 times farther out than Earth, which they nicknamed “Farout.” For now, they are jokingly calling the new object “FarFarOut”. “This is hot off the presses,” he said during his rescheduled talk on 21 February.

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