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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