Astronomers Discover Most “Farout” Obect In Our Solar System

Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center say they have discovered an object in our system that is so remote and so unusual they have decided to call it “Farout.”  This nickname definitely describes what is the most distant object in our solar system: an icy, pinkish, slow-moving dwarf planet that is between 120 and 130 times further from our sun than Earth. 

According to astronomer Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, in Washington, this dwarf planet’s official designation is 2018 VG18.  He says scientists estimate the planet has a diameter between 310 and 275 miles. 

Farout is just the latest of roughly 50 dwarf planets in our solar system.  The biggest of these dwarf planets is probably also the most well-known: Pluto, which has a diameter of roughly 1,470 miles.  The second largest of these dwarf planets is Eris, which has a diameter of approximately 1,445 miles.  Eris was also the previous record-holder as our solar system’s most faraway planet. 

One of the discoverers is a David Tholen, who is also an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. He comments that we obviously know very little about this planet because it is so far from the sun; or rather its extreme distance from the sun is really the only thing we know about it. However, at that distance we can also somewhat discern that it must be in a very slow orbit, probably taking more than 1,000 years to make its full trip around the sun. 

What may be, perhaps, more interesting than the discovery of Farout is that it comes not even two months after scientists discovered another distant solar system object.  Astronomers identified “the Goblin” around the end of October, and it is 80 AU from the sun.  To put this into perspective, Earth is 1 astronomical unit (AU) from the sun and Pluto is 34 AU from the sun.  Eris is roughly 96 AU from the sun and Farout is an astounding 120 AU from the sun. 

While we do cannot know very much about this still very new object, Minor Planet Center (Cambridge) associate director, Gareth Williams, comments that Farout is “in a region of space that is poorly sampled, so any new objects increase our knowledge of the outer solar system.”