Bernardinelli amber is the largest comet ever discovered and is very “primal” – it has never been so close to the sun. That’s what a new study shows.
Philadelphia – The discovery of the largest comet known to date was announced just a few months ago. The comet with the name Bernardinelli-Bernstein (C / 2014 UN271) moves out of the Oort cloud at the edge of the solar system towards the sun. The comet, named after its two discoverers, Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein of the University of Philadelphia, was first estimated to be about 100 to 200 kilometers in diameter. In a new study that the two comet discoverers have now published, Bernardinelli and Bernstein give a more precise estimate of the size.
According to this, the giant comet has a diameter of around 150 kilometers. For comparison: the famous comet Hale-Bopp (C / 1995 O1), which could be seen in the sky with the naked eye in 1997, had a diameter of about 60 kilometers. Based on its surface brightness and size, comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein has about ten times the mass of Hale-Bopp, write the researchers in their study.
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is larger than Hale-Bopp and the moons of Mars
Another exciting size comparison is that with two known moons in the solar system: The two Mars * moons Phobos (27 kilometers in diameter) and Deimos (15 kilometers in diameter) are together smaller than the newly discovered comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein.
The astronomer Will Gater illustrates the size comparisons with a graphic on Twitter:
Reading @phbernardinelli’s tweets this morning I was trying to get my head around just how big Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein (aka C/2014 UN271) is.
So here’s a graphic I’ve just made to show an (edited) @NOIRLabAstro illo of it in comparison to some other Solar System objects. pic.twitter.com/sx9MWkavxv
— Will Gater (@willgater) September 22, 2021
In their new study, Bernardinelli, Bernstein and numerous colleagues describe the comet as “new”. So far, there is no evidence that the comet moved closer than 18 astronomical units (1 AU is about 150 million kilometers) to the sun. “In fact, this is possibly the most pristine comet ever observed since we discovered it before it entered Uranus’ orbit,” the study continues.
Bernardinelli-Bernstein is the “most pristine comet that has ever been observed”
Currently, Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is located 20 AU from the Sun. In images from 2017, activity of the comet could be detected for the first time, which has continued to intensify. Most recently, astronomers from the Las Cumbres Observatory reported the comet’s eruption and the resulting increase in brightness.
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein becomes an “impressive telescope object”
Even if the activity of comets is usually difficult to predict, the study authors around Bernardinelli and Bernstein try their hand at it. According to their estimates, the Comet Bernardinelli-Amber could be seen in the sky a little fainter than the Saturn moon Titan in the future. However, it is also possible that it will become significantly brighter. Regardless of how the comet behaves in the future, the researchers write in their study that it should become an “impressive telescope object”.
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According to calculations, the comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein will reach its point closest to the Sun, the so-called perihelion, in 2031. It will still be 11 AU (about the distance between Sun and Saturn) from the Sun when its orbit moves it away from the Sun again. (tab) * fr.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.