Hubble reveals new ‘mega comet’ now in our solar system is 80 miles across, 50 times bigger than ever

The mega-comet spotted in 2021 is the largest ever seen according to observations by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Estimated to be 80 miles in diameter and with a mass of 500 trillion tons, Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) has the largest icy comet nucleus ever seen. It is now in the solar system, but about two billion kilometers away.

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Measured using Hubble and radio telescopes, scientists calculate that its nucleus is 50 times larger than the previous record holder. Its mass is a hundred thousand times greater than that of a typical comet.

But Comert Bernardinelli-Bernstein is not a typical comet.

It won’t be a problem for our planet either. In fact, it will never come within a billion miles of the Sun, outside of Saturn’s orbit.

This is despite the fact that it is moving at 22,000 miles per hour.

“We always suspected that this comet must be big because it’s so bright at such a great distance,” said David Jewitt, professor of planetary sciences and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). , and co-author of the study published in Letters from the Astrophysical Journal. “Now we confirm that this is the case.

The comet is believed to visit once every 600,000 years.

“It’s an amazing object, considering its activity while still so far from the Sun,” said Man-To Hui of Macau University of Science and Technology, Taipa, Macau, and lead author of the item. “We guessed the comet might be quite large, but we needed the best data to confirm that.”

His team used Hubble to take five photos of the comet on January 8, 2022. However, since it’s too far away to get a good photo of its nucleus, they had to use telescope images of a bright peak and build a model. computing of the surrounding coma, adjusting it to fit the Hubble images. They then compared the brightness of the core to earlier radio observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

Hubble measurements also suggest that Comet Bernardinelli-Berstein has a darker core surface than previously thought. “It’s big and it’s blacker than coal,” Jewitt said.

Comet Bernardinelli-Berstein was discovered last year by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein while looking at old Dark Energy Survey images at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. It was found in images dating back to 2010. An incredibly rare find, it was first classified as a minor planet.

Its closest approach to the Sun won’t be until 2031, but it’s sure to be a major talking point in astronomy until then.

The next largest comet astronomers know of is now C/2002 VQ94, which had a 60-mile-wide core when it was spotted in 2002.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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