Some exciting news: A trio of astronomers has announced discovery of the most distant object ever seen in the solar system. There’s a Flagstaff connection too, as Northern Arizona University astronomer Chad Trujillo was part of the discovery team.
2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” is a dwarf planet that’s nearly four times farther from the Sun than Pluto, and 120 times farther than Earth. At this enormous distance, it take more than 1,000 years for Farout to complete one trip around the Sun.
Farout was first spotted in images taken last month with the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, which you can see below. The dwarf planet’s existence was confirmed by follow-up observations obtained in early December using the Magellan Telescope in Chile.
Discovery image of 2018 VG18 taken by the Subaru Telescope on November 10, 2018
“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the Sun, its approximate diameter, and its color,” says Dave Tholen, one of the co-discoverers.
Evidence suggests that the planet is about 300 miles in diameter and has a pinkish color indicative of an icy surface. It will take years to learn more about this distant icy world as it slowly meanders across the sky.
The scale of our system. The newly discovered dwarf planet 2018 VG18 is four times further from the Sun than Pluto.
Farout is unlikely to hold the distance record forever, however, as other undiscovered icy worlds might exist even further out. And another known dwarf planet, Sedna, follows a highly elongated path around the Sun that will eventually take it 30 (!) times farther away than Pluto.
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