Astronomers Find Solar System’s Most Distant Dwarf Planet


2018 VG18 pic

2018 VG18

A resident of Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska has a passion for science. Valerie Varnuska enjoys spending much of her free time star gazing and studying astronomy.

On December 17, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced the discovery of a pink dwarf planet that exists roughly 120 astronomical units (AU) from the Earth, which is the equivalent of 120 times the distance between Earth and the sun. The planet was officially named 2018 VG18, but was also given the nickname Farout due to its being the most far out planet observed in the solar system to date. Pluto, by comparison, orbits at 34 AUs, while Eris, which was previously the most distant object observed in the solar system, is 96 AUs away.

The planet was first observed in November via the Hawaii-based Subaru 8-meter telescope, and its existence was later confirmed by the Magellan telescope at Chile’s Las Campanas Observatory. It is estimated to be 310 miles in diameter, which is one-third the size of Pluto. Its pinkish hue leads researchers to believe it is covered in ice.


Solar System Grazed by Star 70,000 Years Ago, Researchers Say


Proxima Centauripic

Proxima Centauri

As a passionate member of the natural science community, Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, enjoys reading about astronomy. Astronomy buffs like Valerie Varnuska are often the first to become aware of new developments in the study of space, including its history, current happenings, and new discoveries.

While many think of stars as unmoving celestial bodies, recent research indicates that a red dwarf star called Scholz’s star came within one light year of our solar system approximately 70,000 years ago. For perspective, this is more than four times closer than the sun’s current closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

The first research suggesting this phenomenon looked at the star’s current motion and velocity and extrapolated backward. Other research coming from the Complutense University of Madrid, however, looked at the hyperbolic, or V-shaped, orbits of some objects within the solar system. Many of these objects are projected in the direction of the constellation of Gemini, which would fit the model of an encounter with Scholz’s star. This close encounter does not explain all objects on hyperbolic orbits, however, which means other explanations are necessary to capture the full picture of unusual objects in the solar system.