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Largest comet ever observed is heading towards our solar system

The last time Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein passed through the inner solar system, Earth was populated by Australopithecines

A celestial object with extraordinary dimensions was recently discovered by American astronomers. The body, dubbed Bernardinelli-Bernstein, after the two scientists’ names , was officially recognized as a comet on June 23, a week after being spotted. The object may well be the largest of its kind ever seen in modern history, says the Space website .

The element also called C / 2014 UN271 is about ten times larger and has a mass 1,000 times greater than that of the average comet. Scientists thus estimated that its diameter was between 100 and 200 kilometers. Specialists have struggled to make precise assessments because it is still extremely far from Earth.

Visible with very powerful instruments

To calculate its size, astronomers had to rely on the amount of sunlight it reflects. The object should however approach our planet and be closest to it in 2031. It will nevertheless remain at a distance of 11 astronomical units from the Blue Planet, or approximately 1.65 billion kilometers. Even as close as possible to the Earth, the comet will therefore only be visible with particularly powerful instruments.

In addition to its size and trajectory, C / 2014 UN271 stands out from other celestial elements by the rarity of its appearances in our internal solar system. Its last passage dates back to three million years ago, that is to say at the time when our planet was, among other things, populated by Australopithecines. The comet was born in the Oort cloud, to 40,000 astronomical units from the sun.

Never had a body come from so far away been spotted heading towards Earth. Scientists hope to learn a lot from the study of this celestial object, especially when it comes to the formation of massive celestial bodies and the movements of the planets.

Par Jules Bercy

A writer a blogger passionate about science, history politics, the general knowledge of our planet and the Universe...

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