A team of astronomers has discovered the furthest object within the solar system. It is a dwarf planet that is the first to have been observed to more than 100 times the distance between the sun and the Earth. If the average separation between these two bodies is 150 million kilometers — an astronomical unit — the new object is 120 times farther, about 18 billion kilometres. So far, the most distant object known was Eris, to 96 astronomical units, much more distant than Pluto, to 39.5.
The center of lesser Planets of the International Astronomical Union today announced the existence of this body. Its official name is difficult to remember — 2018 VG18 — but its discoverers nickname it Farout, which in English means both distant and eccentric, two hallmarks of this object in the confines of the solar system.
Americans Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie institution, David Tholen of the University of Hawaii, and Chad Trujillo of the University of Northern Arizona, have discovered the new planet by chance. What they were really looking for is a planet several times larger than the earth that would be the ninth known after Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Although for now it has not been possible to observe this planet X, the team of astronomers believes that it exists by the supposed influence that exerts its gravity in other smaller bodies, like the Goblin, a dwarf planet to 80 astronomical units discovered last October.
On November 10th, the Japanese Subaru telescope at the top of the Hawaiian Mauna Kea volcano captured the first image of the dwarf planet. The observation was confirmed by another telescope at the Bell Observatory in Chile this month.
"2018 VG18 is farther away and moves slower than any other object in the solar system, so it will take years for us to determine its orbit," Sheppard says in a press release. The planet was found "at a point in the sky close to that of other of the farthest known bodies, so it may have an orbit similar to the rest. The similarities in the orbits of many of these objects are the basis for the possible existence of a massive planet to several hundred astronomical units that influences their remote orbits, "emphasizes the astronomer.
The new planet takes more than 1,000 years to take a turn in the sun. Because of its brilliance they calculate that it is about 500 kilometres in diameter and a pink color that usually reveals the presence of large amounts of ice.
The Spanish astronomer Guillem Anglada-Escudé believes that more dwarf planets will probably be discovered even farther away. "There must be dozens of them and when there are enough you will have a better idea of the dynamics of these distant orbits, which is a fossil record of the formation of the solar system and should be tweaking the existence or absence of planet X that , if the simulations are correct, it could be 500 astronomical units, "he says.