Photo: Buddy_Nath / Pixabay
In June 2021Astronomers were excited to the announce the discovery of the Bernardinelli-Bernstein (C / 2014 UN271) comet, which by far is the largest ever measured.
With a diameter of nearly 62 miles, Bernardinelli-Bernstein is about 1,000 times larger than a typical comet in our solar system..
Scientists initially found the giant comet through the so-called Oort cloud, a layer of icy debris predominantly within the confines of the solar system. They were even able to discern a bright tail and a sign that the comet may be approaching the warmer inner solar system.
The comet will be very close to the Sun in 2031
A new study to be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters has confirmed just that: Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein will reach its perihelion, the point at which it is closest to the Sun, sometime in 2031.
However, the scientists mentioned that “there is no need to panic.” Even at its closest position to the Sun, the comet will still be very far away.
Astronomers expect the comet to come within 11 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun, where 1 AU is the distance between the Sun and Earth. That would put Bernardinelli-Bernstein safely, just beyond the orbit of Saturn.
Then, within a decade, scientists will have the unique opportunity to study and obtain images of a comet in a category of its own weight from a safe distance. By then, Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction at the peak El Penon Cerro Pachon in northern Chile finally be operational.
The ground-based telescope will be equipped with latest generation instruments, allowing you to study the nature of dark matter and study of the sky and track comets.
The 2031 flyby will be a once-in-3.5-million-year opportunity: it will be the last time the comet is this close to the Sun..
The last time Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein flashed its glowing tail in the solar system, our genus (Homo) didn’t even exist. Its current inward journey began at a distance of more than 40,000 AU, which is about one-seventh the distance to the nearest star. For comparison, Pluto is 39 AU from the Sun, on average.
The discovery of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein
The comet was discovered by Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, both astronomers at the University of Pennsylvania.While the two were reviewing the data collected by the House Energy Oscura (DECam) 570 megapixel camera mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope of 4 meters at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile.
As Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein makes its long journey to the inner solar system, astronomers won’t be sitting idle. They will use all the tools at their disposal to study the composition and origin of this enormous relic.
In the process, they may learn a thing or two about the composition of the early solar system and its formation, since Oort cloud objects are thought to have been relatively unchanged since the Sun first formed thousands of years ago. millions of years.
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