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Huge comet mistaken as a dwarf planet is slowly entering our solar system

A huge comet mistaken as a dwarf planet has been heading towards our solar system
(Image credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva)

Scientists are getting a better look at Bernardinelli-Bernstein, the largest comet ever discovered, as it slowly makes its way back into the solar system after 3.5 million years.

It is officially named C/2014 UN271 and discovered in 2021 by Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein could be as large than 100 miles (160km) across, which makes it more massive than any other comet that we've seen. Actually, when it was first discovered scientists mistook it for an extremely small dwarf planet or similar trans-Neptunian objects.

Although some recent observations suggest that it may not be all that massive however, it already has the appearance of a tail, even though it is nearly as to the Sun as Neptune making the most distant comet that has ever been observed to have a tail.

Our colleagues at LiveScience have pointed out the comet does not pose a threat to Earth and its perihelion - the closest contact with the sun is expected to be around 11 AU or eleven times as far away Earth to our sun. This puts it away from Saturn's orbit, when it will make its closest appearance in 2031.

It is believed to be entering the solar system just once before and thus is an extremely "young" comet in that aspect, as it contains a lot of frozen material. "It's very rare to see big comets basically because unless you're catching it in its first or second passage, most of its material would already be gone," Bernardinelli said to

Analysis: What's the deal could be the result if it hit Earth!

There is no chances of this comet ever getting near to the surface of Earth We at MaddApple enjoy playing with calculators, and who doesn't love a doomsday scenario for the start of the this month?

We did a quick work up on the consequences of a Bernardinelli-Bernstein impact event with the Earth, and while these calculations should in no way be considered authoritative, here's what we found. Based on an average density of 0.6g for every cubic centimeter (roughly comparable to the density of Hale-Bopp's comet) and an average speed of 53km/s (typical for the speed of a comet) with an impact angle of approximately 75 degrees in relation to the horizontal (the the orbit of the comet is almost parallel to that of the ecliptic) Let's be honest and say we'd be in for some fun on Earth.

The impact could release energy equivalent to 400 times the energy released in the K-T Impact Event that wiped the dinosaurs out about 65 million years back. The event generated a 100-million megaton blast that caused firestorms throughout the globe.

The impactor would create a crater of around 800 km or 540 miles across and just under 135 miles or 218 kilometers deep. That's about 10 times deeper than crust of the Earth is.

In every sense it would be a complete planet-killer should it strike Earth. Fortunately, it's not coming anywhere near us, so if you have a powerful amateur telescope at home (or can get one in the next decade), enjoy the show as Bernardinelli-Bernstein makes its comeback tour in 2031.

Via Tech Radar

Huge comet mistaken as a dwarf planet is slowly entering our solar system Reviewed by John Colston on 10/05/2021 05:57:00 AM Rating: 5

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