"2018 VG18 Orbit" by Tomruen / CC BY-SA 4.0

“Farout!” Newfound Object Is the Farthest Solar System Body Ever Spotted

Dec 18, 2018

By Sarah Lewin

A newly discovered object is the most-distant body ever observed in the solar system—and the first object ever found orbiting at more than 100 times the distance from Earth to the sun.

The discovery team nicknamed the object “Farout,” and its provisional designation from the International Astronomical Union is 2018 VG18. Preliminary research suggests it’s a round, pinkish dwarf planet. The same team spotted a faraway dwarf planet nicknamed “The Goblin” in October.

“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.”

Farout is 120 astronomical units (AU) from the sun—one AU is the distance between Earth and the sun, which is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). The object is more than 3.5 times the current distance between Pluto and the sun (34 AU), and it outpaces the previous farthest-known solar system object, the dwarf planet Eris, which is currently about 96 AU from the sun. 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.

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3 comments on ““Farout!” Newfound Object Is the Farthest Solar System Body Ever Spotted

  • Wait a minute. If they’ve found a dwarf planet at 120 AU then interstellar space can’t be at 120 AU. They need to revise that. Especially considering that they’ve just started identifying these things. Never mind the heliopause. What will they call the next one, “Further Out?”
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  • Dec 20, 2018 at 3:18 pm
    Norm says:

    If they’ve found a dwarf planet at 120 AU then interstellar space can’t be at 120 AU. They need to revise that. Especially considering that they’ve just started identifying these things. Never mind the heliopause

    Outside the heliopause is interstellar space, but despite some comments from silly journalists and some people who should know better, it is not “outside the Solar-System”.   – Just as Apollo space craft went outside the Earth’s atmosphere, but not outside the Earth-Moon gravity well.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46610812
    Furthermore the “Heliosphere” is not spherical and also changes in size.
    There could  probably be some orbiting Solar-System Oort Cloud objects half way to the Centauri system.

    https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18003

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  • “Interstellar Space” is not defined by a distance like the maximum extent of an orbit, but the locations where the galactic cosmic radiation is no longer moderated by the outward pressure of the solar plasma flux  and reaches its full interstellar magnitude. The heliosphere describes the volume of cosmic radiation diminution, and it is far from spherical. It is shaped somewhat like a comet as the sun orbits the galactic centre. The shortest distance to the heliopause (where the solar plasma flux stops and galactic cosmic radiation wins) is about 123AU. This is at the head of the heliosphere “comet”, exactly the direction of Voyagers 1&2. Dwarf planets at this distance might well spend much of their time within the more extensive tail of the protective heliosphere.

     
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