2018 AG37
Preliminary orbit for 2018 AG37
Discovery [1][2]
Discovered by
Discovery siteMauna Kea Obs.
Discovery date15 January 2018
(first observed)
Designations
2018 AG37
"FarFarOut" (nickname)[3]
Orbital characteristics[5]
Epoch 24 February 2019 (JD 2458538.5)
Uncertainty parameter 9
Observation arc2.03 yr (740 days)
Aphelion132.59±5.01 AU[a]
Perihelion27.63±0.10 AU
80.11±0.19 AU
Eccentricity0.655±0.012
717.0±40.7 yr[a]
182.84°±335.01°
0° 0m 4.949s / day
Inclination18.68°±0.19°
68.37°±0.81°
≈2366?
232.97°±91.65°
Neptune MOID≈ 4 AU (600 million km)[2]
Physical characteristics
Mean diameter
25.3[1]

2018 AG37 (nicknamed FarFarOut) is a distant trans-Neptunian object and centaur that was discovered 132.2 ± 1.5 AU (19.78 ± 0.22 billion km) from the Sun,[8] farther than any other currently observable known object in the Solar System.[3][9] Imaged in January 2018 during a search for the hypothetical Planet Nine,[10] the confirmation of this object was announced in a press release in February 2021 by astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chad Trujillo. The object was nicknamed "FarFarOut" to emphasize its distance from the Sun.[3] With an estimated diameter of 400 km (250 mi), it is near the lower limit for a dwarf planet candidate.

At a very faint apparent magnitude of 25, only the largest telescopes in the world can observe it.[1] Being so far from the Sun, 2018 AG37 moves very slowly among the background stars and has been observed only nine times in the first two years.[5] It requires an observation arc of several years to refine the uncertainties in the approximately 700-year orbital period and determine whether it is currently near or at aphelion (farthest distance from the Sun). As of 2021 the nominal JPL Horizons solution has it coming to aphelion around the year 2005,[11] whereas Project Pluto shows it reached aphelion around 1960.[12]

Discovery

2018 AG37 was first imaged on 15 January 2018 by astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chad Trujillo using the 8.2-meter Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii.[1] They were surveying the sky with the largest telescopes to find distant Solar System objects and the hypothetical Planet Nine, whose existence they proposed in 2014.[10]

2018 AG37 was not noticed until January 2019, when Sheppard decided to review the Subaru images taken in 2018 after having an upcoming lecture delayed by weather.[10][13] In two of the January 2018 images taken one day apart, he identified a very faint apparent magnitude 25.3 object that moved slowly relative to the background stars and galaxies.[1] Based on two positions of 2018 AG37 in those images, Sheppard estimated its distance was roughly around 140 astronomical units (AU), farther than 2018 VG18 which was discovered and announced by his team one month earlier in December 2018.[13] In his rescheduled talk on 21 February 2019, Sheppard remarked on his discovery of 2018 AG37, which he jokingly nicknamed "FarFarOut" as a succession to the nickname "Farout" used for the previous farthest object 2018 VG18.[13]

Following 2018 AG37's discovery, Sheppard reobserved the object in March 2019 with the 6.5-meter Magellan-Baade telescope at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. Additional observations were then made in May 2019 and January 2020 with the Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea.[1] These observations over a two-year period established a tentative orbit solution for 2018 AG37, permitting it to be confirmed and announced by the Minor Planet Center.[14] The confirmation of 2018 AG37 was formally announced in a press release by the Carnegie Institution for Science on 10 February 2021.[3]

Nomenclature

The object was nicknamed "FarFarOut" for its distant location from the Sun, and particularly because it was even farther than the previous farthest known object 2018 VG18 which was nicknamed "Farout".[3] It is officially known by the provisional designation 2018 AG37 given by the Minor Planet Center when the discovery was announced.[1] The provisional designation indicates the object's discovery date, with the first letter representing the first half of January and the succeeding letter and numbers indicating that it is the 932nd object discovered during that half-month.[b]

The object has not yet been assigned an official minor planet number by the Minor Planet Center due to its short observation arc and high orbital uncertainty.[2] A minor planet number is given to a minor planet when its orbit is well-secured by observations over multiple oppositions.[14] 2018 AG37 will become eligible for naming by its discoverers after it is numbered with a well-defined orbit.[14][16]

Orbit

As of 2021, 2018 AG37 has only been observed nine times over an observation arc of two years.[2] Being so far from the Sun, 2018 AG37 moves so slowly that two years of observations have not adequately determined its orbit.[3] The nominal orbit is highly uncertain with a condition code of 9.[2] Several years of additional observations are necessary to refine the orbital uncertainties.[3][16] It comes to opposition each January.[8]

Only 2018 AG37's distance and orbital elements that define its position (inclination and longitude of the ascending node) have been adequately determined by its two-year observation arc.[5] The orbital elements that define the shape and motion of 2018 AG37's orbit (eccentricity, mean anomaly, etc.) are poorly determined because its observation arc does not provide sufficient coverage of its wide-ranging orbit, especially when it moves very slowly due to its large distance.[5] The nominal best-fit orbit solution provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Small-Body Database gives an orbital semi-major axis of 80.0±3.0 AU and an eccentricity of 0.655±0.012, corresponding to a perihelion and aphelion distance of 27.6±0.1 AU and 133±5 AU, respectively.[2][5] The orbital period of 2018 AG37 is poorly known, but it probably lies around 700 years.[5][3]

Given the uncertainty of 2018 AG37's nominal perihelion distance, it likely crosses Neptune's orbit (30.1 AU) with a nominal minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) around 4 AU (600 million km; 370 million mi).[2] 2018 AG37's small perihelion distance and elongated orbit implies that it has experienced strong gravitational interactions with Neptune in past close encounters.[3] Other trans-Neptunian objects are known to have been scattered onto similarly distant and elongated orbits by Neptune—these are collectively known as scattered disc objects.[4]

Distance

See also: List of Solar System objects most distant from the Sun

The object was initially estimated to be roughly 140 AU (21 billion km) from the Sun, but this estimate was uncertain due to the very short initial observation arc. As of 2021, it is the farthest observed object of the Solar System.[3] When it was announced in February 2021, 2018 AG37 had an observation arc of two years. Based on this, it was 132.2 ± 1.5 AU (19.78 ± 0.22 billion km) from the Sun at the time of its discovery on 15 January 2018.[8]

Many near-parabolic comets are much farther from the Sun. Caesar's Comet (C/-43 K1) is calculated to be more than 800 AU (120 billion km) from the Sun.[17] Comet Donati (C/1858 L1) is 145 AU (22 billion km) from the Sun.[18] However, none of these more distant objects are currently observable even with the most powerful telescopes.

Over a hundred trans-Neptunian objects are known with aphelion distances that bring them farther from the Sun than 2018 AG37.[19]

Physical characteristics

This illustration imagines what the distant object nicknamed "FarFarOut" might look like in the outer reaches of the Solar System
This illustration imagines what the distant object nicknamed "FarFarOut" might look like in the outer reaches of the Solar System

Based on 2018 AG37's apparent brightness and projected distance, the Minor Planet Center calculates an absolute magnitude of 4.2.[2] It is listed as the 12th intrinsically brightest known scattered disc object.[4]

The size of 2018 AG37 is unmeasured, but it likely lies between 400–600 km (250–370 mi) in diameter assuming a geometric albedo range of 0.10–0.25.[20] Sheppard estimates that 2018 AG37's diameter lies at the lower end of this range, assuming that it has a highly reflective and ice-rich surface.[3] This places it near the lower limit for a body to collapse into a spheroidal shape by hydrostatic equilibrium and thus become a dwarf planet.[3][16]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Statistics of small numbers and random observational errors cause the orbital elements to be very poorly constrained and the uncertainties are so large and non-linear that these error bars are not really meaningful and just show that the uncertainties are large.
  2. ^ In the convention for minor planet provisional designations, the first letter represents the half-month of the year of discovery while the second letter and numbers indicate the order of discovery within that half-month. For 2018 AG37, the first letter 'A' corresponds to the first half-month of January 2018 while the succeeding letter 'G' indicates that it is the 7th object discovered on the 37th cycle of discoveries. Each completed cycle consists of 25 letters representing discoveries, hence 7 + (37 completed cycles × 25 letters) = 932.[15]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "MPEC 2021-C187 : 2018 AG37". Minor Planet Electronic Circular. Minor Planet Center. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "2018 AG37". Minor Planet Center. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Solar System's Most Distant Known Member Confirmed". Carnegie Science. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "List Of Centaurs and Scattered-Disk Objects". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: (2018 AG37)" (2020-01-25 last obs.). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Archived from the original on 10 February 2021. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b "List of Known Trans-Neptunian Objects". Johnston's Archive. 29 August 2021. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Orbit Fit and Astrometric record for 18AG37". Southwest Research Institute. Retrieved 13 September 2021. (The Deep Ecliptic Survey Object Classifications)
  8. ^ a b c "JPL Horizons On-Line Ephemeris for 2018 AG37". JPL Horizons On-Line Ephemeris System. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 10 February 2021. Ephemeris Type: VECTORS, Target Body: Asteroid (2018 AG37), Coordinate Origin: Sun (body center) [500@10], Time Span: Start=2018-01-15, Table Settings: quantities code=2p
  9. ^ "Voyager Mission Status". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Redd, Noah Taylor (7 March 2019). "New "FarFarOut" World Is the Most Distant Solar System Object Known". Scientific American. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Horizons Batch for (2018 AG37) around 2005 (1 month stepsize)" (Aphelion occurs when rdot flips from positive to negative). JPL Horizons. Retrieved 21 September 2021. (JPL#5/Soln.date: 2021-Aug-24)
  12. ^ "Project Pluto 1960 Ephemeris". Project Pluto. Archived from the original on 15 February 2021. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  13. ^ a b c Voosen, Paul (21 February 2019). "New "FarFarOut" World Is the Most Distant Solar System Object Known". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aax1154. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  14. ^ a b c "How Are Minor Planets Named?". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  15. ^ "New- And Old-Style Minor Planet Designations". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  16. ^ a b c "Astronomers Confirm Solar System's Most Distant Known Object Is Indeed Farfarout". NOIRLab. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  17. ^ "JPL Horizons On-Line Ephemeris for C/-43K1". JPL Horizons On-Line Ephemeris System. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 5 March 2019. Ephemeris Type: VECTORS, Target Body: Comet C/-43 K1, Coordinate Origin: Sun (body center) [500@10], Table Settings: quantities code=2p
  18. ^ "JPL Horizons On-Line Ephemeris for C/1858 L1 (Donati)". JPL Horizons On-Line Ephemeris System. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 5 March 2019. Ephemeris Type: VECTORS, Target Body: Comet C/1858 L1 (Donati), Coordinate Origin: Sun (body center) [500@10], Table Settings: quantities code=2p
  19. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Search Engine: orbital class (TNO) and Q > 200 (au)". JPL Solar System Dynamics. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  20. ^ Bruton, Dan. "Conversion of Absolute Magnitude to Diameter for Minor Planets". Department of Physics, Engineering, and Astronomy. Stephen F. Austin State University. Retrieved 15 February 2021.