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Farthest Observed Object in Solar System Is 'Farout'

Dwarf planet is 11 billion miles away
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 18, 2018 4:56 AM CST
This image provided by the Carnegie Institution for Science shows an artist's concept of a dwarf planet that astronomers have nicknamed "Farout."   (Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science via AP)

(Newser) – Astronomers have spotted the farthest object ever observed in our solar system—and they've nicknamed the pink cosmic body "Farout." The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center announced the discovery Monday. "Farout" (pronounced far-out) is a dwarf planet about 120 astronomical units away—that's 120 times the distance between Earth and the sun, or 11 billion miles, the AP reports.. The previous record-holder was the dwarf planet Eris at 96 AU. The Carnegie Institution's Scott Sheppard says the object is so far away and moving so slowly it will take a few years to determine its orbit. At that distance, it could take more than 1,000 years to orbit the sun.

The astronomers spied the dwarf planet in November using a telescope in Hawaii. It is an estimated 310 miles across. Sheppard says the location of Farout suggests it has a similar orbit to "other known extreme solar system objects," adding weight to theories that a massive, distant "Planet X" is "shepherding these smaller objects." Space.com notes that while Farout is the most distant object observed in the solar systems, astronomers know there is much more out there: The dwart planet's Sedna's orbit takes it 900 AU away from the sun, and there are believed to be trillions of comets in the Oort cloud, which stretches up to 100,000 AU away. (In 2015, a spacecraft reached a dwarf planet for the first time.)


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