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“Farout” Pink Dwarf Planet Discovered In Our Solar System

December 21, 2018
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“Farout” Pink Dwarf Planet Discovered In Our Solar System

An international team of astronomers has discovered the most distant object known in our Solar System. They call this round, pinkish dwarf planet Farout.

The new-found object is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the sun. It is 17.95 billion kilometers (11.15 billion miles) from the Sun.

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced the discovery Monday, calling the object 2018 VG18. But the researchers who found it are calling it “Farout.”

Farout is the first object discovered that is more than 100 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.

Previously, astronomers thought the dwarf planet Eris to be the furthest object at a distance of 96 AU. Pluto, meanwhile, is at a distance of 34 AU.

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft recently entered interstellar space at about 120 AU, leaving the sun’s “sphere of influence” called the heliopause, where bodies experience the solar wind.

Views from the Subaru telescope that led to the discovery of 2018 VG18. The dwarf planet is visible moving between the two frames at center. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard/David Tholen

This world is big enough to be round. Therefore researchers categorized it as a dwarf planet along the lines of Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and other small worlds that have not cleared their orbits yet.

“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the sun, its approximate diameter, and its color,” David Tholen, a researcher at the University of Hawaii and part of the discovery team, said in a statement. “Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun.”

This dwarf planet is only 500 kilometers (310 miles) in diameter. Astronomers believe it to be ice-rich because of its pinkish hue.

The Discovery

A team led by Scott S. Sheppard from Carnegie University, Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University, and David Tholen from the University of Hawaii discovered Farout last month. Astronomers first spotted the dwarf planet using the Subaru 8-meter telescope in Hawaii in November. Then a follow-up measurement in early December by the Magellan telescope in Chile confirmed its existence.

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Thumbnail image credit: CarnegiRoberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science

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