FAROUT: SCI­EN­TISTS SPOT SO­LAR SYS­TEM’S FAR­THEST KNOWN OB­JECT

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As­tronomers have spot­ted the far­thest known ob­ject in our so­lar sys­tem — and they’ve nick­named the pink cos­mic body “Farout.”

The In­ter­na­tional As­tro­nom­i­cal Union’s Mi­nor Planet Cen­ter an­nounced the dis­cov­ery this week.

“Farout” is about 120 as­tro­nom­i­cal units away — that’s 120 times the dis­tance be­tween Earth and the sun, or 11 bil­lion miles. The pre­vi­ous record-holder was the dwarf planet Eris at 96 as­tro­nom­i­cal units. Pluto, by com­par­i­son, is 34 as­tro­nom­i­cal units away.

The Carnegie In­sti­tu­tion’s Scott Shep­pard said 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.

Shep­pard and his team spied the dwarf planet in Novem­ber us­ing a te­le­scope in Hawaii. Their find­ing was con­firmed by a te­le­scope in Chile.

“I ac­tu­ally ut­tered “farout” when I first found this ob­ject, be­cause I im­me­di­ately no­ticed from its slow move­ment that it must be far out there,” Shep­pard wrote in an email. “It is the slow­est mov­ing ob­ject I have ever seen and is re­ally out there.”

It is an es­ti­mated 310 miles (500 kilo­me­ters) across and be­lieved to be round. Its pink shade in­di­cates an ice-rich ob­ject. Lit­tle else is known.

The dis­cov­ery came about as the as­tronomers were search­ing for the hy­po­thet­i­cal Planet X, a mas­sive planet be­lieved by some to be or­bit­ing the sun from vast dis­tances, well be­yond Pluto.

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