Artist concept of 2018 VG18 “Farout”. Credit Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science.

Astronomers have discovered a distant body that’s more than 100 times farther from the Sun than Earth is. Its provisional designation is 2018 VG18, but they’ve nicknamed the planet “Farout.” Farout is the most distant body ever observed in our Solar System, at 120 astronomical units (AU) away.

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced Farout’s discovery on Monday, December 17th, 2018. The discovery team nicknamed the object “Farout,” but its provisional designation from the International Astronomical Union is 2018 VG18.

Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa/Scott S. Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science.
Solar System distances to scale showing the newly discovered 2018 VG18 “Farout” compared to other known Solar System objects.

Farout is 120 astronomical units (AU) from the sun — one AU is the distance between Earth and the sun, which is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). The object is more than 3.5 times the current distance between Pluto and the sun (34 AU), and it outpaces the previous farthest-known solar system object, the dwarf planet Eris, which is currently about 96 AU from the sun.

“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the sun, its approximate diameter, and its color,”

– David Tholen, a researcher at the University of Hawaii and part of the discovery team, said in a statement.

A trio of astronomers made the discovery: Carnegie Science Institute’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo. They used the Magellan telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and the Japanese ubaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The same team also discovered “The Goblin” in October, 2018. The Goblin is another distant world whose orbit is thought to be shaped by the elusive Planet 9.

CreditScott S. Sheppard and David Tholen/Carnegie Institution for Science
Farout was observed by the Subaru Telescope, on Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, on Nov. 10.In the hour between exposures, the object moved relative to the background stars and galaxies.

Farout joins a growing list of other dwarf planets in the outer reaches of the Solar System. In the last few years, astronomers have discovered the Goblin, Biden, Sedna, and Eris in the region from about 80 AU to 96 AU.