Astronomers have spotted a tiny dwarf planet at the outer edge of our solar system – 100 times further out than the Earth is from the sun.
The tiny object has been nicknamed ‘Farout’ by the team at Carnegie – and was found during the search for Planet X, the unseen, huge planet believed to lurk at the edge of our solar system.
The planet is 120 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Pluto is currently 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.
The team will now investigate whether the orbit of ‘Farout’ is shaped by the unseen Planet X.
Scott S. Sheppard of Carnegie said, ‘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.
‘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.’
2018 VG18 was discovered as part of the team’s continuing search for extremely distant solar system objects, including the suspected Planet X, which is sometimes also called Planet 9.
In October, the same group of researchers announced the discovery of another distant solar system object, called 2015 TG387 and nicknamed “The Goblin,” because it was first seen near Halloween.
The Goblin was discovered at about 80 AU and has an orbit that is consistent with it being influenced by an unseen super-Earth-sized Planet X on the solar system’s very distant fringes.