Astronomers have just discovered the most distant object that has ever been detected within our solar system, and this object is a dwarf planet that has been given the affectionate nickname of Farout, with its official title being 2018 VG18.
As Phys.org reports, the official announcement of this exciting new discovery was given by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center on December 17. The credit for finding this distant dwarf planet goes to three individuals: the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.
The astronomers involved with the discovery of 2018 VG18, or Faraway, found this planet as part of a group effort to locate objects within our solar system that are incredibly distant. In this they were hugely successful as 2018 VG18 is so distant that it is 100 times further from us than we are from the sun, as Tholen explained.
“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the Sun, its approximate diameter, and its color. Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun.”
Estimated to measure in at around 310 miles in diameter, Faraway is truly a dwarf planet in every sense and has a pink hue to it, which astronomers believe comes from tholins that reside on surface ice.
— Cosmological (@kenserlore96) December 17, 2018
As Sheppard has noted, it is expected to take several years to work out the orbit of 2018 VG18 because this dwarf planet is both distant and enormously slow in its movement.
“2018 VG18 is much more distant and slower moving than any other observed Solar System object, so it will take a few years to fully 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 most of them do. The orbital similarities shown by many of the 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 very first images that were captured of Faraway came from the special Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope that resides on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. However, once these pictures came back on November 10, 2018, it was imperative that the distance of this dwarf planet be verified by a second source, and the Magellan telescope located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile did just this in December.
While little is currently know about dwarf planet 2018 VG18, the most distant object ever detected in our solar system, with more observational studies astronomers will soon have more information about this very special little pink planet.