Published: Tue, December 18, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Astronomers Discover 'Farout,' the Most-Distant Solar System Object

Astronomers Discover 'Farout,' the Most-Distant Solar System Object

It is about 120 astronomical units (AU) away - one AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Pluto is now at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the solar system'smost-famous dwarf planet. In addition to Farout being so distant, Sheppard said that when he first saw the planet he shouted out loud: "far out!"

The Carnegie Institution's Scott Sheppard says the object is so far away and moving so slowly it will take a few years to determine its orbit.

'But it was found in a similar location on the sky to the other known extreme solar system objects, suggesting it might have the same type of orbit that a lot of them do. "The orbital similarities shown by numerous known small, distant Solar System bodies was the catalyst for our original assertion that there is a distant, massive planet at several hundred AU shepherding these smaller objects".

The observations were reported today in a circular distributed by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center.

The newfound tiny world is the most distant object ever found in our solar system.

There's something orbiting the sun, way, way beyond the distant realm of Pluto.

They claim that it will take several years to study Farout, but they have already found that it has an unusual orbit similar to that of other extreme objects lurking in the outskirts of the Solar System. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft recently entered interstellar space at about 120 AU, leaving the sun's "sphere of influence" called the heliopause, where bodies experience the solar wind.

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It is an estimated 500 kilometres across and believed to be round.

The object, a pink dwarf planet called 2018 VG18 and nicknamed "Farout", lies more than 100 times further from the sun than the Earth is.

A languid, dim speck of light showed up in images taken on November 10 by the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea on Hawaii island.

In the meantime, however, 2018 VG18's discoverers - Carnegie Institution of Science's Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii's David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo - have nicknamed it "Farout" for its extreme distance from the sun. In early December, "Farout" was seen a second time at the Magellan telescope placed at Carnegie's Chile-based Las Campanas Observatory.

The sun's gravity decreases with distance. They also suggest that the planet is roughly spherical and is about 500km in diameter.

"This discovery is truly an worldwide achievement in research using telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile, operated by Japan, as well as by a consortium of research institutions and universities in the United States", concluded Trujillo.

Farout's orbit is yet to be determined. "Planet X is also likely even further away, at a few hundred AU". They nicknamed it Goblin, because Halloween was approaching, and its orbit provided further evidence that Planet Nine may indeed exist. The Kuiper belt ends at a distance of about 50 astronomical units, and the space beyond that was thought to be largely empty.

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