Scientists have confirmed: the FarFarOut chunk of rock is the most distant known object in the solar system. The large chunk of rock was discovered in 2018 and since then scientists have been studying about it.
At about 400 kilometers in diameter, it is estimated that FarFarOut, which in literal translation means something like "far, far away," is at an average orbital distance of 101 astronomical units - that's 101 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. The object has been given the provisional designation 2018 AG 37 , and its proper name, according to International Astronomical Union guidelines, is still pending.
The strange orbit of the most distant known object in the solar system
FarFarOut's orbit is not a uniform circle around the Sun, but a truly asymmetrical oval shape. After careful observation, scientists calculated its orbit; FarFarOut oscillates up to 175 astronomical units, and comes close to 27 astronomical units, within Neptune's orbit.
"FarFarOut was probably thrown into the outer Solar System by staying too close to Neptune in the distant past," said astronomer Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University.
"FarFarOut will likely interact with Neptune again in the future, since their orbits still intersect."
(Roberto Molar Candanosa, Scott S. Sheppard / CIS and Brooks Bays / UH)
Distant and mysterious
FarFarOut is still very mysterious. Because it's so far away, its brightness is extremely faint and it's only been observed nine times over two years. The team inferred its size based on the brightness, but not much else is known.
Astronomers aren't entirely sure of its orbit time either. They think it could be as little as 800 years, but there's enough wiggle room to take more than twice that long, or possibly move at a much faster pace.
Images of FarFarOut discovery taken in July 2018. (Scott S. Sheppard / Carnegie Institution for Science)
"FarFarOut takes a millennium to go around the Sun once," said astronomer David Tholen of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.
"Because of this, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to accurately determine its trajectory," he added.
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