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Dwarf planet is the most remote solar system object we have ever observed

Astronomers have discovered a new object that is the most remote ever discovered in our solar system – a dwarf plane that is about four times further away from the sun than Pluto. The discovery was published on Monday by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. When Scott Sheppard, who helped discover the dwarf planet, first saw how slowly the distant object was moving over the sky, he had a thought, silently silent: "far out". He was surprised, because astronomers like Sheppard, a slow object, are a very distant object in our solar system. And this was an unusual one. "It was the slowest object we have ever seen," says Sheppard, an astronomer at Carnegie Institution for Science. "It was the slowest object we have ever seen." By measuring how slowly the dwarf planet moved over the sky, Sheppard and his colleagues told that the object, now known as 201 8 VG18 (and the nickname "Farout"), was at least 120 astronomical units (AU) away from the ground. For perspective, an AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or 93 million miles from there. An artist's illustration of "Farout", a newly discovered dwarf plan in the outer solar system. Roberto Molar Candanosa / Carnegie Institution for Science It sets Farout at about the same distance from the Earth as Voyager 2, the space probe recently crossed into interstellar space. Another spacecraft, Voyager 1, is even further away at 145 AU and stays longer all the time. These…

Astronomers have discovered a new object that is the most remote ever discovered in our solar system – a dwarf plane that is about four times further away from the sun than Pluto. The discovery was published on Monday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

When Scott Sheppard, who helped discover the dwarf planet, first saw how slowly the distant object was moving over the sky, he had a thought, silently silent: “far out”. He was surprised, because astronomers like Sheppard, a slow object, are a very distant object in our solar system. And this was an unusual one. “It was the slowest object we have ever seen,” says Sheppard, an astronomer at Carnegie Institution for Science.

By measuring how slowly the dwarf planet moved over the sky, Sheppard and his colleagues told that the object, now known as 201

8 VG18 (and the nickname “Farout”), was at least 120 astronomical units (AU) away from the ground. For perspective, an AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or 93 million miles from there.

An artist’s illustration of “Farout”, a newly discovered dwarf plan in the outer solar system. Roberto Molar Candanosa / Carnegie Institution for Science

It sets Farout at about the same distance from the Earth as Voyager 2, the space probe recently crossed into interstellar space. Another spacecraft, Voyager 1, is even further away at 145 AU and stays longer all the time.

These extreme distances make it possible to find out what’s happening to Voyager spacecraft, but discover what’s happening to others. Natural objects in these outer stretches of the solar system are much more challenging. It took an international team of astronomers to confirm the presence of Farout by scanning data from extremely high-powered telescopes to look for small signs of motion that can indicate the presence of a planet.


Two pictures of Farout taken by telescope. The dwarf planet is the only one in the moving images. Scott S. Sheppard / David Tholen

Sheppard and the responsible team for this discovery discovered another dwarf plan announced earlier this year, named Goblin. Both discoveries and others are due to a massive search of the sky that has been going on in the last six years. “We have done the largest, deepest survey for solar system objects,” says Sheppard.

One of the objectives of this survey is to look for a large planet size (also called Planet 9 or Planet X) that may exist in the outer surfaces of the sun. Since 2012, the team has covered about 20 percent of the night sky, and while they have found many dwarf planets, they have still not found Planet X.

Even with objects created as Farout, researchers do not have much information . “Everything we currently know about the 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the sun, its approximate diameter and its color,” David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii and a co-investigator of the object in a statement.

They can say that there are about 500-600 kilometers (310-372 miles) around, big enough to qualify as a dwarf plan. It is also a distinct reddish-pink color, which is common to the area of ​​the solar system.

Sheppard says the color indicates that it is probably an odd object. “When the ice is bombarded by radiation over the age of the solar system, it becomes reddish in color,” says Sheppard.

And in this area of ​​our cosmic neighborhood, radiation is constantly bombing, just like for hundreds of millions of years, if not anymore. Outside there they are at the edge of the protective bubble formed by the plasma stream from the sun. As they cross the border, called the heliopause, the levels of cosmic radiation rise and the interaction changes odd objects, giving them the characteristic color.

“There are hundreds of thousands of worlds of different sizes from the size of islands to the size of the continents in this area of ​​the solar system, and almost everyone walks in and out of the heliopause as they travel in their orbit around the sun,” said Michele Bannister, an astrophysician at Queen’s University Belfast. “If it was not pink, I would be amazed.”

While researchers can detect a pink flower through the telescope, other details about the 2018 VG18 (Farout) remain stubbornly out of focus.

Astronomers can say that it probably takes a thousand years or more to make a full circle around the sun, but they are still not sure how the orbit is moving away from the sun or against it. They still have no idea how far into the solar system it can come and whether it is affected by the gravity of the giant planets, such as Neptune, Saturn or Jupiter. All such information will take at least one year, if not more, to rely on data gathered by telescopes around the world.

“The fact that this item is particularly remote is in many ways not the most interesting,” says Bannister. Bannisters, who were not included in the survey, point out that the discovery of objects like this and future analyzes of its circulation will help astronomers to get a better picture of how the solar system was formed and developed. For her, the fact that we managed to see this weak object at such a large distance is more than a bonus than a feature. “This is what comes out of patience, careful search,” says Bannister. “That we see it at this distance is a mere cosmic accident.”

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