OXON HILL, Md. — If you think Pluto is out there, try getting to V774104, the newly minted most distant object in the solar system. The New Horizons spacecraft took 9.5 years to reach Pluto; getting to V774104 would add nearly 20 years to its journey.
At 15.4 billion kilometers from the sun, the remote outpost is about 103 times as far from the sun as Earth, planetary scientist Scott Sheppard announced November 10 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. That puts the icy world beyond the outer limits of the Kuiper belt, making it possibly a visitor from the even more distant Oort cloud. Assuming that V774104 reflects 15 percent of what little sunlight reaches it, the body is about 500 kilometers across, large enough to qualify as a dwarf planet, says Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.
While other objects travel farther from the sun, they are currently closer than V774104. Researchers will need another year of observations, says Sheppard, before knowing V774104’s orbit and just how far out it can get.