Astronomers have discovered the most distant object ever observed in the solar system.
The object, aptly named Farout for its remote location is also the first-ever observed body orbiting at more than 100 times the distance from Earth to the sun.
Pink Dwarf Planet
Scott Sheppard, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, said on Thursday that Farout spans between 130 and 375 miles in diameter suggesting the object is spherical and a dwarf planet.
Preliminary research also suggests that Farout, officially designated as 2018 VG18, is a pinkish and round object. The pinkish color suggests it is an ice-rich body.
"From its brightness, we can determine its size. We know its color. It has a pinkish, reddish hue to it. If you put ices out there and you irradiate them from the solar radiation over time, ices turn kind of a reddish, pinkish color. So we think its surface is probably ice-covered." Sheppard said.
Farout is 120 astronomical units (AU) away. 1 AU is equivalent to the distance between planet Earth and the sun. The second most distant solar system object ever observed is Eris, which is at about 96 AU.
Pluto is at about 34 AU, which makes the newly discovered dwarf planet more than three and a half times farther from the sun than Pluto.
Slow-Moving Solar System Object
The researchers said that Farout moves so slowly it might need more than 1,000 years to make a single orbit around the sun.
"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," said Sheppard.
Sheppard and his colleagues discovered dwarf planet Farout while searching for extremely distant solar system objects, which include a potential Planet X scientists think could be five to 10 times bigger than the Earth.
Farout was first spotted in November using the Subaru 8-meter telescope in Hawaii. A follow-up measurement early this month by the Magellan telescope in Chile confirmed the find.
The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center announced the discovery on Monday.