It's far out, man – literally.
Researchers have uncovered the most-distant celestial object in the solar system, a pink dwarf planet nicknamed "Farout," detect at a distance of more than 100 times farther than the Earth is from the Sun.
The object, also known as 2018 VG18, is approximately 120 astronomical units (AU), well beyond the 96 AU of the second-most distant object in the solar system, Eris. One AU is approximately 149.6 million kilometers or the distance of the center of the Earth to the center of the Sun.
“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,” said researcher Scott Sheppard, who helped make the discovery. “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."
Sheppard continued: "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.”
Based off the teams' preliminary findings, they believe Farout has "a pinkish hue, a color generally associated with ice-rich objects." The researchers have also not yet been able to conclude what 2018 VG18’s orbit is, so they are unable to show whether it has signs of being shaped by Planet X, also commonly known as Planet Nine.
Not much else is known about the object, said David Tholen, a researcher at the University of Hawaii who helped discover the object. "Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun," Tholen said in the statement.
The object was discovered in part of the team's ongoing search for distant objects in the solar system, including the aforementioned Planet Nine/X.
The same research group also discovered the Goblin dwarf planet in October.
In October 2017, Caltech planetary astrophysicist Konstantin Batygin said that there are "five different lines of observational evidence" that point to the existence of Planet X/Nine.
The five lines of evidence are:
- Six known objects in the Kuiper Belt, all of which have elliptical orbits that point in the same direction.
- The orbits of the objects are all tilted the same way; 30 degrees "downward."
- Computer simulations that show there are more objects "tilted with respect to the solar plane."
- Planet Nine could be responsible for the tilt of the planets in our solar system; the plane of the planets orbit is tilted about 6 degrees compared to the Sun's equator
- Some objects from the Kuiper Belt orbit in the opposite direction from everything else in the solar system.
"No other model can explain the weirdness of these high-inclination orbits," Batygin said at the time. "It turns out that Planet Nine provides a natural avenue for their generation. These things have been twisted out of the solar system plane with help from Planet Nine and then scattered inward by Neptune."
In October 2017, NASA released a statement saying that Planet Nine may be 20 times further from the Sun than Neptune is, going so far as to say "it is now harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet Nine than with one."
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