Farthest Object Ever Found in the Solar System

Farthest Object Ever Found in the Solar System

Scientists discover an object called ‘Farout’ at a distance of 120 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun.

Researchers finally found a body in our solar system which is orbiting at more than 100 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Farout, also known as 2018 VG18, became the most distant object observed in our solar system. Previously, this record was held by Eris, a dwarf planet which is located at around 96 AU from the star of our solar system. According to the initial reports, Farout is a round, pinkish body which could possibly be a dwarf planet. David Tholen, a member of the researching team from the University of Hawaii, commented on that by saying,

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.”

Although Farout is the most distant object found in our solar system, humanity does know about some bodies that are even farther away than that. For instance, all the comets in the ‘Oort Cloud’ lie between 5,000 AU to 10,000 AU from the sun. Similarly, Sedna (a dwarf planet) goes as far as 900 AU on its elliptical orbit. Statistically, there are around 150 million kilometers in one AU which means that Farout is about 18,000 million kilometers away from the sun. It is located right at the edge of our solar system and is more than 3.5 times the current distance between Pluto and the sun (34 AU).

The first sighting of 2018 VG18 was reported (from Hawaii) in November when the Subaru 8-meter telescope was used to observe this object. The existence of this body was confirmed after a follow-up measurement by the Magellan Telescope (in Chile) in early December. These observations revealed that it is spherical in shape with an approximate diameter of 500 kilometers. This is a massive indicator that it could well be a dwarf planet. The pinkish color of the Farout suggests that it has a lot of ice on its surface.

The purpose of locating these ultra-distant bodies is to figure out the gravitational effect of ‘Planet X’, a theorized super-Earth-size Planet Nine. Researchers believe that it is orbiting somewhere in the extreme reaches of our solar system. This idea is strengthened by the movements of several distant bodies. Having said that, Planet X is incredibly faint and is quite difficult to locate. Scott Sheppard, a part of the researching team from the Carnegie Institution for Science, acknowledged that and said,

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 proposed location of Planet X is so far away from the inner planets of our solar system that only it can alter the paths of the surrounding objects. Consequently, a closer look at the trends in the orbits of objects like Farout could help scientists in spotting this mysterious planet. The scope of searching could be minimized by determining a possible region in light of all the hints gathered through these objects. This will ultimately improve the chances of success with the powerful telescopes of the future. Chad Trujillo, the 3rd member of the researching team who works at the Northern Arizona University, talked about the significance of this finding in the following words:

This discovery is truly an international achievement in research using telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile, operated by Japan, as well as a consortium of research institutions and universities in the United States. 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.”

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