Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

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

Say G’day To ‘Farout’ The Dwarf Planet 120 Times Further From The Sun Than Us Farout: astronomers identify most distant known object in solar system
Sandra Phillips | 18 December, 2018, 21:13

Astronomers have spotted the farthest known object in our solar system - a dwarf planet they nicknamed "Farout".

The discovery team gave it the provisional designation 2018 VG18, as well as a catchier nickname, Farout.

The object's current distance from the sun is about 120 astronomical units, with each of those units representing the 93-million-mile distance between Earth and the sun.

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

"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.

The discovery images of 2018 VG18 were taken at the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on November 10, 2018.

'Its brightness suggests that it is about 500 km in diameter, likely making it spherical in shape and a dwarf planet, ' the Carnegie Institution of Washington said in a statement.

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A movie of the discovery images of 2018 VG18 from the Subaru Telescope on November 10, 2018.

Farout's discovery comes less than two months after the discovery of "The Goblin", another distant object in the solar system (about 80 AU from the sun) that astronomers first identified around Halloween.

Although "Farout" is the first object to be observed past 100 AU, there is still much more to be discovered, given the Sun's gravity extends out to about 50,000 AU. Pluto is now at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System's most-famous dwarf planet. That color has been associated with objects that are rich in ice, and given its distance from the sun, that isn't hard to believe.

To be clear: The record Farout now holds is for the most-distant solar system body ever observed. 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.

The object was found by the Carnegie Institution for Science's Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii's David Tholen and Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo - and it's not their first discovery.

The orbits of several known outer solar system objects, shown skewed to the left of the above image, reveal the possible existence of a larger planet (perhaps a super-Earth) with an orbit on the other side of the solar system. "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".

Nicknamed "Farout" by the team that discovered it, the celestial object is some 11,160,000,000 miles away. The previous furthest known object was Eris, 96 AU from the sun. That information, which may require a few years of additional observations, will tell whether it fits with a prediction of a distant planet larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. 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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