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Newfound ‘FarFarOut’ Is Most Distant Solar System Body Ever Seen

Feb 28, 2019

By Mike Wall

The solar system has a new distance champ.

Astronomers just found an object that lies 140 astronomical units (AU) from the sun. That’s 140 times the Earth-sun distance, which is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). In case you want some more perspective: Pluto orbits the sun at an average distance of about 39.5 AU.

“This is hot off the presses,” Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said during a public lecture last Thursday (Feb. 21) at his home institution.

Indeed, Sheppard announced the detection during that talk; it has yet to be peer-reviewed, or even written up as a paper. Sheppard said he spotted the object, dubbed FarFarOut, just the previous night, as he was going over telescopic imagery collected in January of the outer solar system.

That was good use of a snow day: Sheppard’s talk had been scheduled to take place on Feb. 20 but was pushed back because of bad weather. (You can see the entire 54-minute talk here. Sheppard starts discussing FarFarOut around the 39-minute, 30-second mark.)

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