The record-breaking ‘megacome’ is more than 80 MILES wide, NASA reveals

A huge ‘mega comet’ is more than 80 miles wide and has a staggering mass of 500 trillion tons, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has revealed.

The comet, called C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), was first discovered back in 2010, but its size has only been confirmed today.

Its core – the fixed center of the comet – is about 50 times larger than the core of most known comets and is the largest that NASA has ever seen.

While the comet is currently less than two billion miles away from the Sun and heading toward Earth, NASA happily assures us that it poses no threat to us.

‘It will never get closer than 1 billion miles away from the Sun, which is slightly further than the distance to the planet Saturn. And it will not be until the year 2031, NASA said.

A huge ‘mega comet’ is more than 80 miles wide and has a staggering mass of 500 trillion tons, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has revealed

The comet, called C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), was first discovered back in 2010, but its size has only been confirmed today (artist's impression)

The comet, called C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), was first discovered back in 2010, but its size has only been confirmed today (artist’s impression)

Comet C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein)

Year of discovery: 2010

Nucleus radius: 80 miles

Lot: 500 trillion tons

Distance from the Sun.: Less than two billion miles

Speed: 22,000 mph

Temperature: -348 ° F (-193 ° C)

At 80 miles across, the core is larger than the state of Rhode Island and almost as wide as Wales.

And with an estimated mass of 500 trillion tons, Bernardinelli-Bernstein is about 100,000 times more massive than typical comets found much closer to the sun.

“This comet is literally the tip of the iceberg for many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in the more distant parts of the solar system,” said Professor David Jewitt, co-author of the study.

‘We have always suspected that this comet should be large because it is so bright at such a great distance. Now we confirm that it is. ‘

The huge comet currently peaks through space at 22,000 km / h and is an “amazing object, given how active it is when it’s still so far from the Sun,” according to Man-To Hui, the study’s lead author.

“We guessed the comet could be quite large, but we needed the best data to confirm this,” he added.

To verify its size, the team used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to take five images of the comet on January 8, 2022.

At 80 miles across, the core is larger than the state of Rhode Island and almost as wide as Wales.  Depicted how the core of the comet is in relation to the previous largest comets

At 80 miles across, the core is larger than the state of Rhode Island and almost as wide as Wales. Depicted how the core of the comet is in relation to the previous largest comets

Using a computer model, the researchers were able to distinguish between the solid core of the comet and the dusty coma that surrounds it, suggesting that the core is even darker than previously thought.

“It’s big, and it’s more black than coal,” Professor Jewitt said.

The comet follows a three million year long elliptical orbit and is now less than two billion miles from the Sun.

At that distance, temperatures are around -348 ° F (-193 ° C), according to NASA.

Scientists believe that the comet probably originated from the Oort cloud – the most remote area of ​​our solar system, where it is believed to find trillions of comets.

Images of the comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein from 2018 and 2020, showing coma with a 'solid asymmetry'

Images of the comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein from 2018 and 2020, showing coma with a ‘solid asymmetry’

Despite the first hypothesis more than 70 years ago, the Oort cloud is still a theory.

This is because the comets that are thought to constitute it are too weak to be observed directly.

The team hopes that the discovery of such a large comet will help shed light on the mysterious Oort cloud.

“The reality of the Oort Cloud is supported by theoretical modeling of the formation and evolution of the solar system,” NASA added.

“The more observational evidence that can be gathered through deep observations combined with multi-wavelength observations, the better astronomers will understand the role of the Oort cloud in the evolution of the solar system.”

WHAT IS THE OORT CLOUD?

The Oort cloud is a large and mysterious area that is believed to surround our solar system.

It contains trillions of comets left from the birth of the universe – and possibly also larger objects such as dwarf planets.

It begins about 0.08 light-years from the Sun – 170 times Neptune’s orbit – and extends to about 0.8 light-years.

The Oort cloud (illustrated) is a large and mysterious area believed to surround our solar system.  It contains trillions of comets left from the birth of the universe - and possibly also larger objects such as dwarf planets

The Oort cloud (illustrated) is a large and mysterious area believed to surround our solar system. It contains trillions of comets left from the birth of the universe – and possibly also larger objects such as dwarf planets

Occasionally, comets from the region enter the solar system, known as long-term comometers.

One of the most famous this year was the comet Siding Spring, which passed Mars on October 19, 2014.

But apart from these brief visitors, not much is known about the Oort cloud.

It has never been directly observed, and it is not known exactly how large it is – although it is thought to define the gravitational influence of the sun.

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