Astronomers today announced the discovery of the solar system’s most distant resident, a tiny dwarf planet located at a distance 120 times farther than Earth is from the sun. The planet, given the provisional designation 2018 VG18 and nicknamed “Farout” by its discovery team, is pinkish in hue, reflecting an icy composition, and is likely some 500 kilometres in diameter.
Scientists first spotted Farout, seen above in an artist’s conception, with the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on 10 November. It was confirmed this month during a week of observations from the Magellan telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Like the recent “Goblin” planet, astronomers spotted Farout while searching for a hypothesized ninth giant planet.
Farout’s orbit, however, is not yet known, so researchers can’t yet say whether its path, which likely takes more than 1000 years to swing around the sun, hints at gravitational tugs from the hypothetical Planet Nine—or even a 10th planet.