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Scientists confirm distance to farthest known solar system object

Scientists have now confirmed that the large asteroid dubbed Farfarout (about 250 miles across) is presently about 132 astronomical units from the Sun (about 12 billion miles), making it the farthest known solar system object.

Its orbit however is far from circular, and it isn’t presently even at its farthest point in that orbit.

[T]he orbit of Farfarout is quite elongated, taking it 175 au from the Sun at its farthest point and around 27 au at its closest, which is inside the orbit of Neptune. Because its orbit crosses Neptune’s, Farfarout could provide insights into the history of the outer Solar System. “Farfarout was likely thrown into the outer Solar System by getting too close to Neptune in the distant past,” said Trujillo. “Farfarout will likely interact with Neptune again in the future since their orbits still intersect.”

The astronomers expect to discover more such objects in the coming years that will even eclipse this one in distance.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

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  • Chris

    Is the Kuiper belt considered “in” the solar system? – I think so
    Is the Oort Cloud considered “in” the solar system? – not?

  • Chris: The Kuiper Belt is in the solar system, and is defined as the belt of objects just beyond Neptune’s orbit. Farfarout is way beyond that, though not as far as the Oort Cloud.

    The Oort Cloud is considered the outermost belt of objects that is part of the solar system. Its existence has never been proven, however, and is hypothesized solely by extrapolating outward the orbits of comets.

  • wayne

    Who is responsible for that stupid name? (“Farfarout”)

  • Jeff Wright

    There is an object called “Gna” that was discovered a while back that might give this a run for its money. Something I’ve been meaning to ask: In the Starflight Handbook, a star called DM 61 366 is said to come near us in a million years or so. Is this Gliese 710? Or could it be another? Also, the Centaur called Chiron might wind up moving to the inner solar system-you could write about that.

  • Wayne: The astronomers had earlier found an asteroid that was far out there, and named it Farout. Then they found this even farther out. Hence the name.

    I like it. It has a sense of humor, and it describes the asteroid’s present situation nicely.

  • wayne

    When to we get “FarFarFarOut?”

  • eddie willers

    Who is responsible for that stupid name? (“Farfarout”)

    James Cameron, because only a ship running on unobtainium can get there.

  • Spectrum Shift

    When I was much younger, I use to say “Far out man”. Now some has discovered “it”

  • Spectrum Shift

    When I was much younger, I use to say “Far out man”. Now someone has discovered “it”

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