[imagesource: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva]
Far, far away, on the outskirts of our solar system, in a gathering of icy planetesimals (AKA cosmic bodies made of huge amounts of dust) called the Oort Cloud, a colossal comet was born.
A comet so big that is thought to be 1 000 times larger than the average comet, and the largest ever seen by some margin.
Although, only time will tell because astronomers believe that the Oort Cloud could be hiding more undiscovered comets in its icy belly.
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein was first spotted four billion kilometres from our solar system in 2014, reports The Independent, which is roughly the same distance away as Neptune.
Between then and now, it has travelled a further billion kilometres towards us.
Thank the cosmic powers that be that this comet is not heading for Earth, although it is making a beeline for the Sun.
Scientists have assured us not to worry as the comet’s orbit is perpendicular to the plane of the solar system, and it will reach its closest point to the Sun (known as the perihelion) in 2031:
While this cloud is only theoretical with our current understanding of science, it is thought that they surround the Sun between 0,03 and 3,2 light-years from it, having been scattered to the far reaches of the solar system by the movement of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune billions of years ago.
University of Pennsylvania’s Gary Bernstein found and named the comet:
“We have the privilege of having discovered perhaps the largest comet ever seen — or at least larger than any well-studied one — and caught it early enough for people to watch it evolve as it approaches and warms up,” he said.
“It has not visited the Solar System in more than three million years.”
Anybody wanting to spot the comet will need a very large telescope, even at its brightest.
To end off, here’s a video with more information about the comet:
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