'Farout' object discovered 100 times farther from Sun than Earth

Pablo Tucker
December 18, 2018

Discovered by the big-time eggheads at the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, Farout (formally known as 2018 VG18) is believed to be the most distant body in our solar system, orbiting the sun at a distance approximately 120 times further out than the Earth.

Recorded in the catalogue of solar system objects as ' 2018 VG18', based on the timing of its discovery, the astronomers who spotted it ended up giving it a nickname - ' Farout'.

Planetary scientists often use the distance from the sun to the Earth - defined as an astronomical unit, or 93 million miles - as a yardstick for measuring the solar system.

Farout: astronomers identify most distant known object in solar system

"Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun", said Sheppard.

"All that we now know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the Sun, its approximate diameter, and its colour", said the University of Hawaii's David Tholen.

Discovery images of "Farout" were taken on November 10, 2018 at Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope, which is located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

The team say Farout's brightness suggests it is about 500km (310 miles) wide, and it is probably spherical.

Discovery image of 2018 VG18 "Farout" from the Subaru Telescope on November 10, 2018. Farout is the small object in the centre, that moves between the two frames, whereas all of the other stationary objects are distant stars and galaxies. "This would make it a dwarf planet". In comparison, Pluto is about 34 AU from the sun. It has a pinkish hue, a color generally associated with ice-rich objects.

"2018 VG18 is the first object found beyond 100 AU in our Solar System", Sheppard told Gizmodo.

One of the most popular explanations is the possible existence of a ninth planet, or Planet X. In fact, the astronomers discovered Farout while searching for the existence of a ninth planet, according to the statement. The discovery was made by Carnegie's Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii's David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo. 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 subsequent observations showed that 2018 VG18 is around 120 AU (astronomical units), making it the first solar system object observed beyond 100 AU.

Nicknamed "Farout" by the team that discovered it, the celestial object is some 11,160,000,000 miles away. The Goblin's orbit suggested that it may be influenced by an as yet undiscovered large planet near the edge of the solar system. "This would suggest Planet X pulled it out to this large distance".

It's estimated that it takes over a thousand years for Farout to complete a single orbit, which is pretty slow. In October 2018, the same group of researchers found 2015 TG387 that was later nicknamed "The Goblin," since it was first seen near Halloween. But if it looks like it fits in with the others, that will be even more compelling evidence for the existence of the elusive Planet 9.

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