A tiny world in the farthest end of the solar system ,the 2018VG18 has been located at a distance of more than 96 AU away from the sun. The discovery of this new object was announced on the 17 December 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. This minor planet nicknamed the ‘FarOut’, is characterised by a pinkish hue.
The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo. Scott Sheppard said “I said ‘far out!’ when I discovered it, and it’s a very far out object,”.
Astronomers first spotted the object using a Japanese telescope that's on top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano and this was later confirmed with a different telescope in Chile.
The distance of Farout
It is the distance of the planet that makes it little known. It is believed to be about 8 billion miles beyond the orbit of Pluto. However the images obtained shows that the planet is 500 km across making it big enough for a dwarf planet suggesting an icy surface.
Eris is another most distant object observed in the solar system located at about 9 AU . Pluto is at about 34AU and this makes 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than Pluto the most-famous dwarf planet.
Look closely and you can see Farout moving very slowly in these shots from the Magellan telescope(Courtesy:www.inverse.com)
Earlier in the month of October, the team found another far-away object they named as the Goblin. But Farout is much "farther out" than the Goblin
Currently ‘Farout’, is much more distant and slow moving than any other object observed in the Solar System. This will take a few years to be able to completely define its trajectory , according to Scott Sheppard. The planet seems to have been identified in similar locations in space as the other known extreme solar objects. This suggests that it follows the same orbit as most of these object do.
It is this orbital similarity exhibited by these known distant small solar objects that led scientists at the International Astronomical Union, to arrive at the conclusion that there is a distant massive planet at a good distance of several hundred AU , steering these small objects.
The new planet is at a huge distance from the sun that it orbits very slowly, that is likely to take about a 1000 years to complete one full revolution around the sun.
Future Research Ahead
The observations revolving around ‘Farout’, focuses on one important aspect and that is the orbit of Farout. These kind of strange orbits of similar distant objects lead to the assumption that they might be pushed around by a huge planet somewhere in the outer edges of our solar system. This yet to be discovered object has been dubbed as Planet X.
All the known planets orbit the sun in roughly the same plane. But the smaller objects found in the Kuiper Belt (which is a circumstellar belt that extends beyond the Neptune (34 AU) to as far as 50AU away from the sun) are far from the gravitational influence of the giant planets which allow them to orbit the sun at angles to this plane, prodded by their own gravitational interactions and past collisions.
This angle known as the inclination is predictable for any object observed. This is how Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin at the California Institute of Technology predicted the existence of a ninth planet, estimated to be ten times the mass of Earth and orbiting around 700 AU from the sun.
If Farout’s orbit is similarly warped, it might help us narrow down our search for the elusive planet.