Astronomers discover most distant planet in solar system

WASHINGTON • Astronomers have discovered a mysterious dwarf planet that is three times farther away than Pluto and is believed to be the most distant object in our solar system.

The discovery of the dwarf planet known as V774104 was announced on Tuesday at the American Astronomical Society near the United States capital and could indicate the presence of more rogue planets in our celestial neighbourhood.

The planet currently sits 15.4 billion km from the Sun.

It is believed to be between 498km and 997km across.

VAST EXPANSE OF SPACE

The discovery of V774104 is more proof that the solar system is bigger than we thought.

DR JOSEPH BURNS of Cornell University

Dr Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, announced the discovery and said its orbit remains unknown, for now.

"It could end up joining an emerging class of extreme solar system objects whose strange orbits point to the hypothetical influence of rogue planets or nearby stars," said a report in the journal Science.

The discovery of the dwarf planet was made with Japan's 8m Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.

The planet lies about 103 astronomical units (AU) away from the Sun. One AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Previously, the most-distant solar system object was announced in 2005 - a dwarf planet named Eris that was 97 AU from the Sun.

"The discovery of V774104 is more proof that the solar system is bigger than we thought," said Dr Joseph Burns, professor of engineering and astronomy at Cornell University.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline 'Astronomers discover most distant planet in solar system'. Print Edition | Subscribe