Astronomers discover solar system's farthest object

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These scientists have been scouring the deep solar system for such objects, including the suspected super-Earth-sized Planet X, or Planet 9, whose gravity may be pushing and pulling other distant objects in the far-off solar system. Or to put it in Big Lebowski terms: "It's far out, man; far f%^#ing out". According to Carnegie, the second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU, noting that "Pluto is now at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System's most-famous dwarf planet". At that distance, it could take more than 1,000 years to orbit the sun.

This image provided by the Carnegie Institution for Science shows an artist's concept of a dwarf planet that astronomers say is the farthest known object in our solar system, which they have nicknamed "Farout".

From these observations, the team found that dwarf planet is fairly sizable, about 310 miles (500 km) in diameter or roughly 1/3 the size of Pluto, Sheppard said.

This extreme trans-Neptunian object is about 120 astronomical units (AU) from Earth, where 1 AU is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun (about 92 million miles, or 149 million kilometers).

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The same team were responsible for the discovery this year of a minor planet nicknamed The Goblin, 80 AU away. In early December, "Farout" was seen a second time at the Magellan telescope placed at Carnegie's Chile-based Las Campanas Observatory. Observations made with the Magellan telescope confirmed the distance of 120 AU. It's unusual orbit also suggests the presence of a much larger body within its sphere of influence.

"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 Scott S. Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who is one of the three astronomers credited with 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 majority do".

Its brightness suggests that it is about 300 miles in diameter; it's pretty pinkish hue is likely due to its ice-rich nature.

"This discovery is truly an global achievement in research using telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile, operated by Japan, as well as by a consortium of research institutions and universities in the United States", Trujillo said in the press release. They nicknamed it Goblin, because Halloween was approaching, and its orbit provided further evidence that Planet Nine may indeed exist. "With new wide-field digital cameras on some of the world's largest telescopes, we are finally exploring our Solar System's fringes, far beyond Pluto".

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The team will now investigate whether the orbit of "Farout" is shaped by the unseen Planet X. The Kuiper belt ends at a distance of about 50 astronomical units, and the space beyond that was thought to be largely empty.

Farout's orbit is yet to be determined.

For a bit of context, Pluto is 34 AU away.

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