The Little Pink Planet Everyone is Talking About
Recently a team of international astronomers discovered the most-distant object ever observed within our solar system. At this time, it is the first known object detected at a distance more than 100 times farther from the sun than the earth is. The initial announcement came on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.
“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the Sun, its approximate diameter, and its color,” co-discoverer David Tholen, from the University of Hawaii, said in a statement. “Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun.”
Farout’s assigned designation is, 2018 VG18 and it is 500 kilometers (310 miles) in diameter. Farout is at a distance of 120 AU, significantly further out than dwarf planet Eris, which is at 96 AU. Pluto, by comparison, is at 34 AU.
The Pink Planet was stumbled upon when observing images taken by the Japanesse Subaru Telescope that sits atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on November 10. A Follow-up observation by Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, confirmed the distance mentioned above in December.
“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,” added co-discoverer Scott Sheppard, from the Carnegie Institution for Science. “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. 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.”
With each new discovery, it is a subtle reminder that the extent of the universe is much larger than we can really imagine. What will we find next?