For most people, snow days are not very productive. However, some people use the time to discover the farthest object in the solar system.
That's what Scott Sheppard, an astronomer from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC, has done this week, when a snowstorm brought heaven to a standstill. A glittering public conversation he was supposed to deliver was delayed, so he crouched down and did what he did best: he looked through the telescope views of the edge of the solar system his team had been searching for a hypothetical ninth giant planet last month had met. 19659005] At that time, he saw it, a faint object 140 times farther from the Sun than Earth – the farthest object of the solar system known to date, about 3.5 times farther away than Pluto. The property, if confirmed, would be lying fallow for the December announced discovery of its dwarf planet announced in December, which was 120 times farther off than Earth and was named Farout. At the moment they jokingly call the new object "FarFarOut". "That's hot from the press," he said during his rescheduled conversation on February 21st.
Sheppard and his associates – Chad Trujillo of the Northern Arizona University of Flagstaff and Dave Tholen of the University of Washington Hawaii of Manoa – methodically scoured the night sky with some of the world's most powerful and wide-angle telescopes. Their persevering search yielded four-fifths of the objects known in the last 9 billion kilometers from the Sun.
This is not a stamp collecting. The clustering in the orbits of these objects can serve as an indicator of the influence of Planet Nine. Like Farout, FarFarOut's orbit is not known yet. Until then, it is uncertain whether it will stay far enough away from the rest of the solar system to be freed from the gravitational pull of the giant planets. If so, they could join one of Sheppard's latest discoveries, the "goblin," which meshes with projections of the planet Earth's potential orbit.
It will take several years to determine the orbits of Farout and FarFarOut They will give more pointers. On almost every new moon, Sheppard searches for his favorite telescopes, the Blanco 4-meter in Chile and the Subaru 8-meter in Hawaii. He flies to Chile next week and the next week to Hawaii.