Astronomy

Recently, the most distant object in the solar system was discovered. How was this accomplished?

Recently, the most distant object in the solar system was discovered. How was this accomplished?


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It was recently announced that the most distant object in our solar system was discovered. This object averages 132 AU from the sun. The object, initially named Farfarout, was estimated to be 400 km across. How was such a small object found and its orbit estimated by a ground-based telescope? This seems to really be pushing the limits of observable objects. Or am I wrong on this?

Ref: https://phys.org/news/2021-02-astronomers-orbit-distant-solar.html


The discovery announcement by the Minor Planet Center indicates that 2018 AG 37 ("Farfarout") was between 25.0 and 25.3 magnitude. The positions are based on observations taken with the 8 m Subaru telescope and 6.5 m Magellan-Baade telescope.

As a comparison, this ancient article by Sky & Telescope (What Is The Faintest Object Imaged By Ground-Based Telescopes?) indicates the Subaru telescope limit is around 27.7. ("Ancient" in terms of CCD cameras and computer processing. The article is from 2006.) Note that this same article indicates that a 16 inch (400 mm) amateur telescope should be able to capture images to 24th magnitude -- just 2x to 3x brighter than Farfarout!

Also, the Subaru Exposure Calculator indicates an exposure of 1 minute will capture a 25.3 magnitude object using default input (except for the Moon, which I set to New Moon).

Thus, it seems almost "easy" to capture an image of it.

Finding an unknown, faint object is another issue. I do not have any information on this aspect of the question, but I feel safe that computer searches are quite adept at finding such things. Once the first image (or pair of images that show motion) is found, other images are often found or taken to facility the calculation of the orbit. The time span of the images is only two (2) years which is short for a body with a period of 1000 years (estimate). The Wikipedia page for 2018 AG37 currently lists large uncertainties for the average distance (86 +/-68 AU) and period (798 +/-941 years). Those uncertainties will be reduced as a longer arc of the orbit is measured.


Farfarout’s current distance from the Sun is 132 astronomical units (au) 1 au is the distance between the Earth and Sun. For comparison, Pluto is only 34 au from the Sun. The newly discovered object has a very elongated orbit that takes it out to 175 au at its most distant, and inside the orbit of Neptune, to around 27 au, when it is closest to the Sun.

Farfarout’s journey around the Sun takes about a thousand years, crossing the giant planet Neptune’s orbit every time. This means Farfarout has probably experienced strong gravitational interactions with Neptune over the age of the solar system, and is the reason why it has such a large and elongated orbit.

&ldquoA single orbit of Farfarout around the Sun takes a millennium,&rdquo said Tholen. &ldquoBecause of this long orbital period, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to precisely determine its trajectory.&rdquo


Scientists confirm discovery of the most distant object of the Solar System

In January 2018, scientists gazing out beyond the known objects of the Solar System spotted something new: A small object, seemingly bound in orbit around the Sun. Scientists nicknamed this speck 'Farfarout,' for its distant location from the star — about four times farther than Pluto is from the Sun.

Now, after years of follow-up observations, we can finally confirm: Farfarout is in fact a planetoid, and the most distant object in the Solar System.

HERE'S THE BACKGROUND Using the Subaru Telescope, an 8-meter telescope located on top of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii, scientists spotted the planetoid Farfarout.

A planetoid is a kind of hybrid, somewhere between a planet and an asteroid — a small piece of ice, rock, and dust orbiting around the Sun.

Follow-up observations of the object determined its orbit, confirming that it is the furthest known object of the Solar System.

Of course, the latest object is not to be confused with 'Farout,' the previous record holder of the most distant object of the Solar System. Unfortunately for Farout, Farfarout is much further out, located deep inside the Kuiper Belt.

The planetoid is located a whopping 132 astronomical units (AU) away from the Sun. One astronomical unit is the distance between the Earth and Sun, approximately 91.757 million miles.

For comparison, the dwarf planet Pluto is located 34 AU from the Sun.

WHAT'S NEW —By tracking Farfarout's motion around the Sun, the team of scientists were able to determine its orbit — and it is certainly a doozy.

The object completes one orbit around the Sun in a thousand years.

At the furthest point in its orbit, Farfarout is at a 175 AU away from the Sun. As it journeys around the star, it does loop a little closer in, eventually creeping in even closer than the planet Neptune, at only 27 AU away from the Sun.

"A single orbit of Farfarout around the Sun takes a millennium," David Tholen, an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii, and a member of the team behind the discovery, said in a statement.

"Because of this long orbital period, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to precisely determine its trajectory."

Due to it crossing paths with Neptune, the scientists behind the discovery believe Farfarout may have at one point been a much more close member of our planetary neighborhood. At some point in the past, Farfarout may have been ejected from the inner bosom of our system, out into the outer realms of the Solar System. This may have occurred after the planetoid got too close to Neptune for comfort during the chaotic early years of the Solar System.

WHAT'S NEXT — The team of scientists will continue to observe Farfarout. One thing Farfarout needs, for example, is an official name (no, we can't keep calling it that), which they will determine after they have a better understanding of its orbit.

At the same time, Farfarout raises the bar on furthest object from the Sun — the scientists behind this discovery are also hoping to discover more distant objects in the outer Solar System. This will become increasingly possible as our Earthly telescopes continue to advance, allowing us to seek out more distant worlds which share our host star.


⟺rout': Most Distant Known Object in Solar System Discovered

The most distant known object in our solar system was recently discovered by astronomers.

Scientists with the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced the discovery of the object dubbed "Farout" on Monday.

Object 2018 VG18 was first observed on Nov. 10 by Carnegie Institute of Science's Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo using the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

A second observation in early December via the Magellan telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile offered astronomers more details on the object that is over three-and-a-half times more distant from the sun than the solar system’s most-famous dwarf planet, Pluto.

While large enough to be a possible dwarf planet, astronomers do not believe the object is large enough to be Planet X — sometime referred to as Planet Nine — a suspected ninth planet in the solar system, according to the press release.

The object is so far away that astronomers say a trip around the sun on 2018 VG18 might take up to 1,000 Earth years, but it could take some time before that is definitively determined.

“Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun," Tholan said in the press release.

The object appears to be pinkish in color and approximately 310 to 372 miles in diameter, the astronomers note.

“This would make it a dwarf planet. The color of the object is pinkish to red in color, which suggests it has an icy surface," Sheppard told Gizmodo. "Ice usually turns reddish in color after being irradiated for long periods of time from the Sun’s radiation.”

The team of astronomers say the discovery can help scientists understand what is happening in the solar system’s outer reaches.

“This discovery is truly an international achievement in research using telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile, operated by Japan, as well as by a consortium of research institutions and universities in the United States,” concluded Trujillo. “With new wide-field digital cameras on some of the world’s largest telescopes, we are finally exploring our Solar System’s fringes, far beyond Pluto.”


Recently, the most distant object in the solar system was discovered. How was this accomplished? - Astronomy

NASA-funded researchers have discovered the most distant object orbiting Earth's Sun. The object is a mysterious planet-like body three times farther from Earth than Pluto.


An artist's concept of Sedna. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Download a larger image here

"The Sun appears so small from that distance that you could completely block it out with the head of a pin," said Dr. Mike Brown, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., associate professor of planetary astronomy and leader of the research team. The object, called "Sedna" for the Inuit goddess of the ocean, is 13 billion kilometers (8 billion miles) away, in the farthest reaches of the solar system.


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This is likely the first detection of the long-hypothesized "Oort cloud," a faraway repository of small icy bodies that supplies the comets that streak by Earth. Other notable features of Sedna include its size and reddish color. After Mars, it is the second reddest object in the solar system. It is estimated Sedna is approximately three-fourths the size of Pluto. Sedna is likely the largest object found in the solar system since Pluto was discovered in 1930.

Brown, along with Drs. Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory, Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., found the planet-like object, or planetoid, on Nov. 14, 2003. The researchers used the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Caltech's Palomar Observatory near San Diego. Within days, telescopes in Chile, Spain, Arizona and Hawaii observed the object. NASA's new Spitzer Space Telescope also looked for it.


These three panels show the first detection of the faint distant object dubbed "Sedna." Imaged on November 14th from 6:32 to 9:38 Universal Time, Sedna was identified by the slight shift in position noted in these three pictures taken at different times. Credit: NASA/Caltech
Download a larger image here

Sedna is extremely far from the Sun, in the coldest know region of our solar system, where temperatures never rise above minus 240 degrees Celsius (minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit). The planetoid is usually even colder, because it approaches the Sun only briefly during its 10,500-year solar orbit. At its most distant, Sedna is 130 billion kilometers (84 billion miles) from the Sun, which is 900 times Earth's solar distance.

Scientists used the fact that even the Spitzer telescope was unable to detect the heat of the extremely distant, cold object to determine it must be less than 1,700 kilometers (about 1,000 miles) in diameter, which is smaller than Pluto. By combining available data, Brown estimated Sedna's size at about halfway between Pluto and Quaoar, the planetoid discovered by the same team in 2002.

The elliptical orbit of Sedna is unlike anything previously seen by astronomers. However, it resembles that of objects predicted to lie in the hypothetical Oort cloud. The cloud is thought to explain the existence of certain comets. It is believed to surround the Sun and extend outward halfway to the star closest to the Sun. But Sedna is 10 times closer than the predicted distance of the Oort cloud. Brown said this "inner Oort cloud" may have been formed by gravity from a rogue star near the Sun in the solar system's early days.


The location and orbit of the new object is shown in context with the orbits of the Solar System, known asteroids and Kuiper belt objects, and the hypothesized Oort cloud of distant objects orbiting the Sun. Credit: NASA/Caltech
Download a larger image here

"The star would have been close enough to be brighter than the full moon, and it would have been visible in the daytime sky for 20,000 years," Brown explained. Worse, it would have dislodged comets farther out in the Oort cloud, leading to an intense comet shower that could have wiped out some or all forms of life that existed on Earth at the time.

Rabinowitz said there is indirect evidence that Sedna may have a moon. The researchers hope to check this possibility with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Trujillo has begun to examine the object's surface with one of the world's largest optical/infrared telescopes, the 8-meter (26-foot) Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. "We still don't understand what is on the surface of this body. It is nothing like what we would have predicted or what we can explain," he said.


This illustration shows Sedna in relation to other bodies in the solar system, including Earth and its Moon Pluto and Quaoar, a planetoid beyond Pluto that was until now the largest known object beyond Pluto. The diameter of Sedna is slightly smaller than Pluto's but likely somewhat larger than Quaoar. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Download a larger image here

Sedna will become closer and brighter over the next 72 years, before it begins its 10,500-year trip to the far reaches of the solar system. "The last time Sedna was this close to the Sun, Earth was just coming out of the last ice age. The next time it comes back, the world might again be a completely different place," Brown said.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope.


Contents

One particularly distant body is 90377 Sedna, which was discovered in November 2003. Although it takes over 10,000 years to orbit, during the next 50 years it will slowly move closer to the Sun as it comes to perihelion at a distance of 76 AU from the Sun. [2] Sedna is the largest known sednoid, a class of objects that play an important role in the Planet Nine hypothesis.

Pluto (30–49 AU, about 34 AU in 2015) was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered (1930) and is the largest known dwarf planet.

Halley's Comet imaged by the VLT at magnitude 28 when the object was located 28 AU from the Sun in 2003

Eris and its moon Dysnomia as viewed with the Hubble Space Telescope, 2007


The Most Distant Object In The Solar System Has Been Confirmed. Meet “Farfarout”.

Artist impression of 'Farfarout' on the lower right while the Sun shines in the distance, top left. Image Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva.

By Dr Alfredo Carpineti

Almost two years ago, astronomers excitingly reported the first preliminary observations of a potential planetoid at a staggering distance – 132 times further from the Sun than Earth is. That’s four times further out than Pluto. Its orbit and distance have now confirmed it's the furthest object observed yet in the Solar System, and it's been given a cute and fitting nickname.

The planetoid (a small celestial body like a minor planet or asteroid that orbits the Sun) is officially known as 2018 AG37 but was immediately nicknamed "Farfarout" because its discovery came just months after the discovery of another extremely distant planetoid 2018 VG18, then nicknamed Farout.

The team estimates that the planetoid is 400 kilometers (250 miles) across, putting it on the lowest possible range for a dwarf planet (like Pluto) if it is ice-rich. The object was first detected in 2018, but it's taken 2 years to finally confirm it using nine observations over this time that showed the planetoid moving and provided clues about its orbit.

"The discovery of Farfarout shows our increasing ability to map the outer Solar System and observe farther and farther towards the fringes of our Solar System," co-discoverer Dr Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institution for Science said in a statement. "Even though some of these distant objects are quite large, being dwarf planet in size, they are very faint because of their extreme distances from the Sun. Farfarout is just the tip of the iceberg of Solar System objects in the very distant Solar System."

Gif of the two discovery images of Farfarout taken on January 15 and 16, 2018. Image Credit: Scott S. Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

"A single orbit of Farfarout around the Sun takes a millennium," added co-discoverer Dr David Tholen from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy. "Because of this long orbital, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to precisely determine its trajectory."

Its orbit is really quite interesting. Farfarout was first detected far away from the Sun but the team estimates that during its orbit, it can get much closer, crossing the orbit of Neptune. This particular orbit indicates that Farfarout is likely to have had some strong gravitational interaction with the ice giant planet in the distant past.

Solar System distances to scale, showing the newly discovered 2018 AG37, nicknamed "Farfarout," compared to other known Solar System objects. AU = astronomical unit ie the distance between Earth and the Sun. Image Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa, Scott S. Sheppard (Carnegie Institution for Science) and Brooks Bays (University of Hawaii)

"Farfarout’s orbital dynamics can help us understand how Neptune formed and evolved, as Farfarout was likely thrown into the outer Solar System by getting too close to Neptune in the distant past," explained Chad Trujillo from Northern Arizona University. "Farfarout will likely strongly interact with Neptune again since their orbits continue to intersect."

Farfarout will be given an official name after its orbit is better determined over the next few years.


Planetoid ‘Farfarout’ is the Solar System’s most distant known object

The most distant known object in our Solar System has been identified by astronomers.

It’s been given the fitting nickname “Farfarout” and is classified as a ‘planetoid’.

This means it’s too small to be considered a planet or a dwarf planet but is still a mass that orbits our Sun.

There was once a time when astronomers thought Pluto was the most distant object orbiting the Sun.

Advancements in technology mean scientists now have a much deeper gaze into the space.

Scientifically known as 2018 AG37, Farfarout is around 12.4 billion miles from the Sun.

In comparison, Earth is only around 93 million miles away.

Dwarf planet Pluto is about 3.7 billion miles away.

However, Farfarout occasionally moves closer to the Sun and Earth on it’s 1,000 year orbit path.

It’s orbit shape means there’s a point every 1,000 years when Farfarout becomes closer to the Sun than both Neptune and Pluto.

This GIF shows the motion of Farfarout, highlighted, between Jan. 15 and Jan. 16 2018, as seen with the Subaru telescope. Scott S. Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

So it might be the furthest object in our Solar System for now but it won’t always keep that title.

There’s a dwarf planet called Goblin which is currently closer to the Sun than Farfarout but has the potential to move much further away on its orbital path.

Research David Tholen from the University of Hawai’i said: “Farfarout’s orbital dynamics can help us understand how Neptune formed and evolved, as 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 since their orbits continue to intersect.”

Farfarout’s 1,000 year orbit time meant the researchers had to study it for years to determine its trajectory.

It was actually discovered back in 2018 but its exact distance hadn’t been determined until recently.

Astronomers think it’s around 250 miles wide.

It will remain under observation and eventually be given an official name that’s more serious than Farfarout and less data specific than 2018 AG37.

An artist’s conception of “Farfarout” on the outer reaches of our Solar System. NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva


Solar System’s most distant known member confirmed

Washington, DC&mdashA team of astronomers, including Carnegie&rsquos Scott Sheppard, David Tholen from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, and Chad Trujillo from Northern Arizona University have discovered discovered the most distant object ever observed in our Solar System.

Officially called 2018 AG37, the object is nicknamed Farfarout for just how far away from the Sun it is orbiting&mdashabout 132 AU, where 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and Sun. At that distance, it takes an entire millennium to orbit the Sun.

The three colleagues have been surveying the sky since 2012 to map the Solar System beyond Pluto. FarFarOut joins a set of these planetoid discoveries&mdashincluding the previous record holder, FarOut at 124 AU, which was also discovered by Sheppard, Tholen, and Trujillo. However, they are still on the hunt for &ldquoPlanet X&rdquo&mdasha much larger planet that could be orbiting somewhere on the Solar System's fringes.

Farfarout&rsquos journey around the Sun takes about 1,000 years, crossing the giant planet Neptune&rsquos orbit every time. This means Farfarout has probably experienced strong gravitational interactions with Neptune over the age of the Solar System&mdashthe reason it has such a large and elongated orbit.

"A single orbit of Farfarout around the Sun takes a millennium", said Tholen. "Because of this long orbital, it moves very slowly across the sky, requiring several years of observations to precisely determine its trajectory."

Farfarout is very faint, and based on its brightness and distance from the Sun, the team estimates its size to be about 400 kilometers across, putting it on the low end of being a dwarf planet assuming it is an ice-rich object.

"The discovery of Farfarout shows our increasing ability to map the outer Solar System and observe farther and farther towards the fringes of our Solar System", said Sheppard. "Only with the advancements in the last few years of large digital cameras on very large telescopes has it been possible to efficiently discover very distant objects like Farfarout. Even though some of these distant objects are quite large, being dwarf planet in size, they are very faint because of their extreme distances from the Sun. Farfarout is just the tip of the iceberg of Solar System objects in the very distant Solar System."

Only objects that stay in the very distant Solar System, well beyond the gravitational effects of Neptune, can be used to probe the very distant Solar System for the signs of another massive planet. These include objects like Sedna and 2012 VP113, nicknamed Biden. Although they are currently closer to the Sun at around 80 AU, they never approach Neptune in their orbits around the Sun and thus would be strongly influenced not by Neptune but more by other possible massive objects in the distant Solar System, like the possible Planet X.

"Farfarout&rsquos orbital dynamics can help us understand how Neptune formed and evolved, as Farfarout was likely thrown into the outer Solar System by getting too close to Neptune in the distant past", said Trujillo. "Farfarout will likely strongly interact with Neptune again since their orbits continue to intersect."

Farfarout was discovered at the Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Maunakea in Hawaiʻi. To determine Farfarout&rsquos orbit based on its slow motion across the sky, the team used the Gemini North telescopes, also on Maunakea, and Magellan telescopes at Carnegie&rsquos Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.


New superhighway system discovered in the Solar System

Researchers have discovered a new superhighway network to travel through the Solar System much faster than was previously possible. Such routes can drive comets and asteroids near Jupiter to Neptune's distance in under a decade and to 100 astronomical units in less than a century. They could be used to send spacecraft to the far reaches of our planetary system relatively fast, and to monitor and understand near-Earth objects that might collide with our planet.

In their paper, published in the Nov. 25 issue of Science Advances, the researchers observed the dynamical structure of these routes, forming a connected series of arches inside what's known as space manifolds that extend from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond. This newly discovered "celestial autobahn" or "celestial highway" acts over several decades, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands or millions of years that usually characterize Solar System dynamics.

The most conspicuous arch structures are linked to Jupiter and the strong gravitational forces it exerts. The population of Jupiter-family comets (comets having orbital periods of 20 years) as well as small-size solar system bodies known as Centaurs, are controlled by such manifolds on unprecedented time scales. Some of these bodies will end up colliding with Jupiter or being ejected from the Solar System.

The structures were resolved by gathering numerical data about millions of orbits in our Solar System and computing how these orbits fit within already-known space manifolds. The results need to be studied further, both to determine how they could be used by spacecraft, or how such manifolds behave in the vicinity of the Earth, controlling the asteroid and meteorite encounters, as well as the growing population of artificial human-made objects in the Earth-Moon system.