The largest comet ever observed is approaching the solar system

This sequence shows how the nucleus of Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) was isolated from a massive crust of dust and gas surrounding the frozen solid nucleus. On the left is an image of the comet taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 on January 8, 2022. A model of the coma (center image) was obtained by adapting the surface brightness profile assembled from the observed image on the left. This made it possible to subtract the coma, revealing the subtle glow from the nucleus. Combined with data from the radio telescope, the astronomers came up with an accurate measurement of the size of the core. Its magnitude comes from its reflectivity measured by Hubble. The core is estimated to be as black as coal. The core region is derived from radio notes. PhD: Science: NASA, ESA, Man Tu Hui (Macau University of Science and Technology), David Jewett (University of California); Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Just a few days ago, on exactly April 12, the scientific community announced that BB is the largest comet ever discovered from the Oort Cloud. Comet nucleus C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein)the real name of BB, is actually about 120 km wide, twice the size of Comet Hale-Bopp.

And BB seems to have a great desire to be noticed in all her glory. The giant comet is actually heading towards at a speed of 35,400 km / h, towards the interior of the solar system. But NASA says we’ll have nothing to fear because C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) will not pass Saturn and Not before 2031.

Discovering BB in 2014

The discovery of this extraordinary celestial body is due to two astronomers from the University of Pennsylvania Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein Who identified it by examining images from the Dark Energy Survey from 2014 to 2018, while they were searching for objects across Neptune.

The first estimates of its size speculated, at the time of discovery The diameter of the comet’s nucleus is between 100 and 370 km. But thanks to the new images, researchers have narrowed it down by saying that BB must be With a diameter of between 105 and 140 kmComet Hale-Bopp is about twice the size of the previous comet, so comet Hale-Bopp is larger than the previous record holder, Comet C/2002 VQ94 (LINEAR), with a maximum diameter of 100 km.

This graph compares the size of the frozen solid core of comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) with that of many other comets. Most of the comet nuclei observed are smaller than Halley’s Comet. Comet C/2014 UN271 is currently the record holder for large comets. Ph.D.: NASA, ESA, Zena Levy (STScI)

So the first discovery of a comet dates back to 2014, but we later noticed the appearance of BB Already in some photo data for 2010. At that time it was located 4.8 billion km from Earth, outside the solar system. It is now close to us by about one billion six hundred thousand kilometers, but it is still outside our planetary system.

New estimates for the diameter of a comet: a new record

The comet’s core is already losing gas and dust at an astonishing rate of about 1,000 kg/sec. A very significant loss rate, even if researchers aren’t sure yet. And that’s exactly what it will be like Huge loss of gas and dust Coming from such a distant object, which prompted the research team to try to measure what they suspected was a massive comet object.

The research was led by Man Tu Hui of the Macao University of Science and Technology, who said it really is about “Something extraordinary, given the amount It is active when it is still out of the sun. We figured that a comet could be very large, but we needed the best data to confirm that.”

To achieve success, Hui and his team used a file Wide Field Camera 3 from the Hubble Space Telescope To take five pictures of the comet. The pictures were taken on January 8, 2022. Thanks to these images, the researchers were able to identify the comet’s nucleus against the background of the comet’s glow and comet tails.

This sequence shows how the nucleus of Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) was isolated from a massive crust of dust and gas surrounding the frozen solid nucleus. On the left is an image of the comet taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 on January 8, 2022. A model of the coma (center image) was obtained by adapting the surface brightness profile assembled from the observed image on the left. This made it possible to subtract the coma, revealing the subtle glow from the nucleus. Combined with data from the radio telescope, the astronomers came up with an accurate measurement of the size of the core. Its magnitude comes from its reflectivity measured by Hubble. The core is estimated to be as black as coal. The core region is derived from radio notes. PhD: Science: NASA, ESA, Man Tu Hui (Macau University of Science and Technology), David Jewett (University of California); Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is larger and darker than previously thought.

In fact, BB is still too far away for Hubble to directly observe its nucleus. Then Hui and his team came up with computer model They adapted it to the Hubble images that they managed to Subtract the umbrella glow and tail leaving only the core the same for a star.

By integrating the Hubble dataset with radio observations fromAtacama Large Millimeter/Meter Range (ALMA) In Chile, the team was able to map the upper and lower bounds of the C/2014 UN271 dimensions.

Moreover, the team also found that the comet is present Less reflexive than previously thought Initially. As David Jewett, a professor of planetary sciences and astronomy at UCLA and co-author of the study that perfected measurements of the comet, explains its nucleus. “It’s big and it’s blacker than charcoal.”

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