2018 VG18, popularily known as Farout, is a Trans-Neptunian Object discovered at a distance of 120 AU (1AU = distance from Earth to the Sun), making it the farthest object ever observed within our Solar System, surpassing the dwarf planet Eris at 96 AU. To put into context, Farout’s distance from the Sun is three times greater than the distance of the Sun from Pluto, and twice as farther as Eris. It is the first object discovered beyond 100 AU in our Solar System, and was found during the search for Planet X, a hypothetical planet thought to exist beyond the Kuiper Belt that may be influencing the orbits of several Trans-Neptunian objects.

Astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chad Trujillo discovered Farout on November 10, 2018. The Diameter of Farout is near 500km, 310 miles, making it a possible candidate dwarf planet. Though designatied 2018 VG18 by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, the team called their discovery Farout. The object’s most intriguing characterisic is the bizarre orbit. The greatest example of this eccentric orbit involves the TNO Sedna, which at its perihelion is at 76 AU, while its distant aphelion cruises near 927 AU. At its perhelion, it orbits near the vicinity of Neptune, yet remains unaffected by its gravitational influence, behaving in a similar manner as other TNOs, offering possible evidence for a theory that there could be a super earth estimated to be about 10 times of Earth’s mass way (far)out there. These objects exist at such an extreme distance from the sun that a full orbit requires 11,000 years to make a full rotation. Given the strange behavior of their orbits, a giant Trans-Neptunian game of bumper cars lasting longer than before Earth formed may be underway, which may have sent some objects barreling out into the solar system, giving us some of our system’s moons and other objects, perhaps resulting in the formation of planets long ago. Nothing is yet confirmed, but the answers are thought to be held in the Kuiper Belt.

Outside the Solar System, at its far fringes, gravity acts peculiarly. Is this due to some sort of undiscovered object hiding in the deep fringes of our star’s system? A massive Earth? A black hole? An Alien mothership deathstar machine? Once you leave Neptune, things stop making sense, a terrifying and exciting reality.

Artist’s concept of a hypothetical planet orbiting far from the Sun. Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)