Astronomers discover a giant comet in the outer solar system

Astronomers discover a giant comet in the outer solar system. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, which lies between 100 and 200 km (62-124 miles), will make its closest approach to the Sun in 2031, according to an analysis of the Dark Energy Survey data. It may be the largest member of the Oort cloud ever discovered, and it is the first comet detected so far on its way to come.

Astronomers discover a giant

This illustration shows Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein as it might appear in the outer Solar System. Image credit: NASA. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is named after two University of Pennsylvania astronomers, Pedro Bernardinelli and Professor Gary Bernstein, who observed it in archival footage from the Dark Energy Survey.

Also known as C / 2014 UN271, the comet is estimated to be between 100 and 200 km in diameter, or about 10 times the diameter of most comets in the Solar System. Its current inward journey began at a distance of more than 40,000 AU (astronomical units) from the Sun. For comparison, Pluto is on average 39 AU away from the Sun.

the outer solar system

This means that the comet originated in the Oort cloud, which was ejected during the early history of the Solar System. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is currently very close to the Sun. It was first observed in 2014 by the Dark Energy Survey at a distance of 29 AU, and in June 2021, it was 20 AU from the Sun and currently shines with a magnitude of twenty.

 

Astronomers discover a giant
Astronomers discover a giant

The comet’s orbit is perpendicular to the plane of the Solar System and will reach its closest point to the Sun (known as perihelion) in 2031, when it will be about 11 AU away. Despite the comet’s size, it is currently estimated that sky watchers will need a large amateur telescope to see it, even at its brightest.

This Dark Energy Survey

This Dark Energy Survey (DES) image is made from some discovery exhibits showing Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein. These images show the comet in October 2017, when it was 25 AU away, 83% the distance from Neptune.

Professor Bernstein said: “We have had the privilege of discovering perhaps the largest comet ever observed, or at least one comet larger than any well-studied comet, and people have come to see it evolve.” I got it early. It has not visited the Solar System in more than 3 million years. The discovery of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein was announced in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular.

Oort cloud
Oort cloud

Giant comet from the distant Oort cloud as seen in our outer solar system. Space experts have discovered a giant comet in six years of Dark Energy Survey (DES) data after extensive searches. The comet has never come into contact with our Solar System and is estimated to be about 1,000 times larger than a typical comet. Because of its size, it is classified as a minor planet.

The distant Oort cloud

Two astronomers from the University of Pennsylvania, Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, named this giant comet Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, with the designation C / 2014 UN271. This is an important discovery and it has become the largest comet ever observed.

A week after astronomers detected a new object in the sky, they began their investigation of the long orbit that was seen traveling inward from the distant Oort cloud. This giant comet first appeared in the Dark Energy Camera in 2014, after which experts Bernardinelli and Bernstein realized that the object was somewhat larger and was moving in time.

They both rediscovered it in the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. According to the findings, this comet has become the most distant comet ever discovered, giving researchers several years to observe how it evolves as it gets closer. to the Sun. It is 20 times the distance from our planet to the Sun and is 62 miles (100 km) wide.

DECAM science collection

The comet will reach its closest point to the Sun in its orbit on January 23, 2031, when it will be just ahead of Saturn’s orbit, which is approximately 10.95 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. comet was hidden among data collected by the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam).

The camera is mounted on the four-meter Víctor M Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. The data study is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE). While the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC) at the NOIRLab of the NSF (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory) of DES curates the DECAM science collection.

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