WOW, oh, WOW!
We have learned so much about the Cosmos around us it is sometimes easy to forget how little we know about our own backyard - the solar system. There are two big events that are going to add significantly to our knowledge of the family of the Sun.
First, two weeks from today the New Horizons spacecraft of Pluto flyby fame in July 2015 will be performing another solar system first - a flyby of Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). This will be the farthest flyby ever accomplished of a planetary body in the solar system, a full billion miles farther than Pluto! New Horizons will also pass closer to Ultima Thule than it did at Pluto and we should really see this world up close and personal.
I'll be blogging on this as we get closer and after the flyby.
|Artist's concept of Ultima Thule
© 2018 The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
The second big event is "Farout" - the newly discovered 500km wide object located deep in the solar system that is 120 times farther from the Sun than Earth. To give you an idea of how far out "Farout" is from the Sun, Pluto is 34 times more distant from the Sun than Earth.
|Movie using the two discovery images of 2018 VG18 "Farout". Credit: Scott S. Sheppard/David Tholen.
|Artist concept of 2018 VG18 "Farout" with scale of Solar System distances. Credit Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science
More observations of Farout are planned in order to determine its precise orbit around the Sun which will take about a thousand years! Farout is thought to be spherical in shape with an icy surface composition. This discovery also might help in the ongoing search for Planet Nine
These events are truly historic in the timeline of our discoveries about the solar system. As we discover more exoplanets and alien solar systems in the process of being formed we will learn more about our own family of the Sun.
Pretty farout and ultima cool.....
Sky Guy in VA