Think Pluto is far from us? It's a hop, skip, and a jump away compared to what may be the most distant object in our solar system, which is "three times farther than Pluto is from the sun," astronomer Scott Sheppard explains. Sheppard and his colleagues used the Hawaii-based Subaru telescope to search for (and take photos of) far-off objects circling the sun, and the dwarf planet V774104 was identified in mid-October, reports NPR. A computer program created to highlight photos that possibly contained a moving object pointed Sheppard to a traveling speck of light. "When this popped up on the screen, my eyes opened up," he says. V774104 appears to be 9.6 billion miles from the sun, reports the BBC, outpacing the previous record-holder for distance, a dwarf planet called Eris, which at its most distant is 9 billion miles from the sun.
How did a planet smaller than our own moon get so far away? Sheppard has two theories: that it hails from another star system or was booted out of our solar system. "If a large planet formed in our solar system and got tossed out, it could pull objects out with it as it was leaving our solar system," he says. To know for sure, Sheppard will need to study V774104's orbit. If the planet moves inward, the latter theory is most likely, reports New Scientist. If it moves outward, V774104 would become the third known member of the inner Oort Cloud. Currently, 2012 VP113 and Sedna "are the only object[s] in the known solar system whose orbits cannot be explained by things in the known solar system," an expert says. We'll have to wait and see if V774104 is "just a gee-whiz record holder or something super cool," he adds. "I've got my fingers crossed for super cool." (Eris may be more like Mercury than Pluto.)