Astronomers have discovered a distant world orbiting the sun.
How far out? It has come out so far that the explorers nicknamed "Farout". All they can see is a pink spot in the night sky, but that's enough to conclude that they're looking at a 300-mile ice ball orbiting more than 11 billion orbits miles from the sun – more than three times that distance like Pluto and the farthest object ever seen in the solar system.
I t This is the latest revelation in a remote region that was expected to be empty. The study of their trajectory can help point to an unseen ninth planetary cycle the sun far beyond Neptune.
"Last month, we found it to be very, very slow," said Scott S Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science, one of the discoverers of VG18. "We knew immediately that it was an interesting object."
[ Log in to receive reminders for space and astronomy events on your calendar .]  The gravity of the sun decreases with distance. Distant worlds move slowly and need an orbit longer than the closer. A dull, faint light spot appeared on November 10 with the 8-meter telescope of the Japanese Subaru on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile this month confirmed the discovery.
Planetary scientists often use the distance from the sun to the earth – defined as an astronomical unit or 93 million miles – as a measure of the solar system's measurement. Neptune is 30 astronomical units or 2.8 billion miles away, and Pluto, currently on the outer orbit of its orbit, is 34.5 astronomical units or 3.2 billion miles from the Sun.
Pluto was once considered to be the outer rim of the solar system. Beginning in 1992, astronomers discovered a host of other icy worlds beyond Neptune, a region now known as the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper belt ends at a distance of about 50 astronomical units, and the space beyond was considered largely empty.
But now astronomers are discovering objects like VG18 in this region, and they still know exactly how to explain it all.
VG18 is 120 to 130 astronomical units from the Sun. It is the first solar system object discovered in more than 100 astronomical units. (It is known that other objects have orbits that oscillate much more than 100 astronomical units, but are now closer.)
Astronomers still have no good sense of the orbit of VG18 – whether they are elliptical or nearby from Neptune or inward if it is more circular and always far away. This information, which could require several more years of observation, will show whether they fit a prediction of a distant planet larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.
So far, they can report that VG18 has a pink shade of hue and, assuming it is moderately dark, I suspect it is about 300 miles wide. A sun trip probably lasts at least 1,000 years. In fact, if VG18 is so big, it would probably be massive enough for gravity to round it up and meet the definition of a "dwarf planet," the same category that includes the asteroid Ceres and the former planet Pluto.
DR. Sheppard and his colleagues, as well as other astronomers, are studying the sky for the hypothetical giant planet often referred to as Planet Nine. Your search has only yielded interesting hints so far. In October, Dr. Sheppard and his colleagues on the discovery of a distant, if not so distant, world like VG18. They called him Goblin as Halloween approached, and his orbit provided further evidence that Planet Nine might actually exist.
VG18 is near the limit of what current telescopes can detect. But it is probably not the last discovery made in these sub-areas. Dr. Sheppard said, "If it's farther out, we call it way, way, or something."