Farout: astronomers identify most distant known object in solar system

Farout: astronomers identify most distant known object in solar system

Its discovery was announced on Monday by the global astronomical union's minor planet centre. Yet another object known as Sedna is now 90 AU from the sun, but traveling in a highly eccentric orbit that takes it more than 10 times farther out as it makes its 11,400-year rounds.

A team of astronomers has discovered the most extreme trans-Neptunian object in the outer reaches of the Solar System.

The first discovery images were taken November 10, 2018.

"All that we now know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the Sun, its approximate diameter, and its color", added Tholen "Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun".

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.

The 310-mile-wide planet has been dubbed "Farout" because of its unprecedented distance from the sun. Its pinkish color suggests it's an ice-rich body, according to the statement. The team came across Farout as they were scanning the solar system for distant planets, including Planet X, a hypothetical planet that astronomers believe could explain the warped orbits of small objects beyond Neptune, officials said. The discovery was made by Carnegie's Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii's David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo.

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However, the team said they did not yet know enough about Farout to tell whether it was being influenced by the putative Planet X.

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. "Immediately we knew it was an interesting object". By comparison, Pluto is now about 34AU in distance, making Farout more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the famous dwarf planet. In early December, "Farout" was seen a second time at the Magellan telescope placed at Carnegie's Chile-based Las Campanas Observatory. An astronomical unit (AU) is the distance between the Earth and the Sun - about 93 million miles - and the new discovery is 120 AUs away.

Sheppard and other scientists spotted Farout during their search for extremely distant solar system objects including a potential Planet X that he said could be five to 10 times the size of Earth. That means that looking for trends in the orbits of objects like Farout can point the way to the mysterious planet, giving researchers hints of where to look for it and chances to test the powerful telescopes that might someday spot it.

For some perspective, we once looked at how long it would take to drive to Pluto; when Pluto was 39 AU away, driving at a steady pace of 65 miles per hour it would take 6,293 years.

Trujillo hailed the worldwide nature of the discovery, which involved telescopes in Hawaii and Chile owned and operated by Japan, and researchers based in the US. "If its orbit never brings it into the giant planet region in our Solar System, then it becomes a big question of how it got out there".

Farout's orbit is yet to be determined.

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