'Farout', most distant object in solar system, discovered by astronomers

CC BY 2.0 Artist concept of 2018 VG18

Farout is significantly farther than the now second most-distant object Eris, which is at about 96 AU.

Farout is around 120 astronomical units away from the sun, which is roughly 17,950,000,000km, so even if you were driving at 110km/h, it would still take you almost 19,000 years to get there (including breaks). Its provisional designation is 2018 VG18, but they've nicknamed the planet "Farout".

"I said 'far out!' when I discovered it, and it's a very far out object", said astronomer Scott Shepard from the Carnegie Institution for Science, as quoted by New Scientist. "But it was found in a similar location in the sky to the other known extreme solar system objects, suggesting it might have the same type of orbit that a lot of them do. The orbital similarities shown by numerous 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".

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'.

A group of astronomers have identified the most distant object ever observed within our solar system. One trip around the sun likely takes at least 1,000 years.

That's more than 100 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun - and about the same distance as Voyager 2, the NASA probe that launched in 1977 and reached interstellar space this month.

Discovery image of 2018 VG18 "Farout" from the Subaru Telescope on November 10, 2018.

Farout: astronomers identify most distant known object in solar system

This newly-discovered object is the result of a team of astronomers' search for the elusive "Planet X" or "Planet 9", a ninth major planet thought to exist at the furthest reaches of our Solar System, where its mass would shape the orbit of distant planets like Farout.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research.

Discovery images of "Farout" were taken on November 10, 2018 at Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope, which is located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations with Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory's Magellan telescope in Chile determined its path, brightness, and color.

All that's known about Farout, at the moment, is its distance (120 AU), its size (around 500km across), and its colour (pink!).

The combination of water ice, methane ice and carbon dioxide ice in these distant objects, reacting with solar radiation, even at those far distances, is apparently the source of this pink colour.

"With new wide-field digital cameras on some of the world's largest telescopes, we are finally exploring our solar system's fringes far beyond Pluto", he said. "This would suggest Planet X pulled it out to this large distance". They first suggested the existence of this possible planet in 2014 after finding "Biden" at 84 AU.

In this case, though, astronomers will have to wait a while to determine Farout's orbit.

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