Just a few months after spotting what appears to be the, "astronomer Scott Sheppard has encountered a problem: what do you call an even more distant object?
For now, the solution is to call the new discovered object 3.5 times more distant than Pluto "FarFarOut". FarFarOut is currently just a small dot on images taken with powerful telescopes. But if it is like FarOut and many other objects of the Kuiper belt, we can assume that it is an icy, pinkish and spherical dwarf planet.
Sheppard, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution, was to give last Wednesday in Washington, DC, a public lecture on distant objects such as FarOut and the possible existence of a"But a storm delayed the 24-hour event and Sheppard took advantage of the snowy day to review some of the data, and with this extra effort, he discovered FarFarOut at 140 times the distance between the sun and the Earth (about 21 billion kilometers or 13 billion miles).
"So 20 UA (astronomical units, the distance between the sun and the Earth) further than FarOut," Sheppard explained during his meeting postponed Thursday night. "This has just been discovered in our data from last month."
The FarOut and FarFarOut discoveries are so new that the objects have not been studied enough to give an idea of their orbit around the sun. Sheppard – who isfor helping to discover many small moons in the solar system – it might take another year or two to determine.
And Sheppard is already working hard to better understand where, exactly, these distant objects are wandering. This week, he is working in an observatory in Chile to collect more data.
If it finds an even more distant object in this data, it may be time to come up with a new pseudonym scheme. "FarFarFarOut" wants to go too far, literally.