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Space

Astronomers were looking for the giant ‘Planet X’ – instead they found the pink dwarf planet ‘Farout’, the most distant object in our solar system

  • The pink cosmic body, nicknamed after its discoverer’s exclamation, orbits the Sun at 17.6 billion km, a distance 120 times greater than Earth’s orbit
  • Scientists say the strange dwarf planet is about 500km in diameter
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 6:37am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 7:57am

Astronomers have spotted the farthest known object in our solar system – and they’ve nicknamed the pink cosmic body “Farout.”

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre announced the discovery Monday.

“Farout” is about 120 astronomical units away – that’s 120 times the distance between Earth and the sun, or 17.6 billion km. The previous record-holder was the dwarf planet Eris at 96 astronomical units. Pluto, by comparison, is 34 astronomical units away.

The Carnegie Institution’s Scott Sheppard said the object is so far away and moving so slowly it will take a few years to determine its orbit. At that distance, it could take more than 1,000 years to orbit the sun.

Sheppard and his team spied the dwarf planet in November using a telescope in Hawaii. Their finding was confirmed by a telescope in Chile.

“I actually uttered ‘far out’ when I first found this object, because I immediately noticed from its slow movement that it must be far out there,” Sheppard wrote in an email. “It is the slowest moving object I have ever seen and is really out there.”

It is an estimated 500km across and believed to be spherical. Its pink shade indicates an ice-rich object. Little else is known.

The discovery came about as the astronomers were searching for the hypothetical Planet X, a massive planet believed by some to be orbiting the sun from vast distances, well beyond Pluto.