Farout is now the most distant dwarf planet yet found, revolving around the Sun at a distance roughly three-and-a-half times more distant from our parent star as Pluto, or 120 times further away from the Sun than the distance at which our home world orbits. This newly-discovered dwarf planet is the latest, and most-distant, world discovered in our solar system.
Also called VG18, this frigid ball of rock and ice was discovered by astronomers using the Japanese Subaru eight-meter telescope, located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Researchers believe this tiny world is roughly 500 milometers (just over 300 miles) in diameter, and has a pink hue, suggesting a frozen surface.
“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,” said David Tholen of the University of Hawaii, one of the astronomers who discovered the frozen world.
Farout was found by Tholen, together with Scott Shepard of Carnegie Institution for Science, and Chad Trujillo from Northern Arizona University, as the team searched the skies for a hypothesized ninth planet at the edge of the solar system. This is the same group who found The Goblin, a dwarf planet orbiting 80 times further away from the Sun as the Earth. The orbit of this world provides evidence of a larger, more distant, planet.
The first images of Farout were obtained on November 10, 2018. Following the discovery, the team tracked the dwarf planet using the Magellan telescope in Chile. Using that instrument, they were able to obtain more information about the orbit of the world, as well as its size and color.
They announced their finding on December 17th, marking the first time a dwarf planet has been observed more than 100 astronomical units (AU’s) from the Sun. One AU is the distance between the Earth and our parent star.
Further observations will be carried out in an effort to determine if the orbit of Farout provides more evidence for the existence of a larger planet in the frozen expanse of the Solar System.