Comes closer to Saturn. A mega-comet is heading from the Oort Cloud towards the Earth

A huge comet, possibly the largest ever discovered, is heading from the Oort Cloud towards us.

The comet, which is estimated to be 100-200 kilometers in diameter, will come closest to Earth in 2031, when it flies into the orbit of Saturn and will be at a distance of 10.9 astronomical units from the Sun, according to Scitechdaily.

According to astronomers, Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein may be the largest object in the Oort Cloud ever discovered, and it is the first comet flying towards us to be seen this far.

Bernardinelli-Berstein’s comet

Photo: wikipedia

How was the comet discovered?

The comet was discovered by scientists Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein in early 2021. They studied archival images taken by the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the 4-meter Victor Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. At first, this object was considered a dwarf planet.

But then scientists got new pictures in which the shell of the comet was visible and the object was moving very quickly through the Oort Cloud. It was then that the object was officially recognized as a comet.

comet, Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet, size comparison

Comparison of the size of the Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet with other objects in the solar system. The comet itself is shown in the foreground. The largest object in the image is the moon of Saturn, Enceladus, on the left are the moon of Mars Phobos and the asteroids Pandora and Arrokot.

Photo: SciTechDaily

New research

In a new study, Bernardinelli and Bernstein say it is an ancient comet, and it was closest to the Sun at a distance of about 18 AU about 3.5 million years ago.

According to scientists, the comet’s current journey began at a distance of more than 40,000 astronomical units from the Sun, that is, 40,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth is. By comparison, Pluto is 39 AU from the Sun.

The comet is currently about 3 billion kilometers away. Despite the size of the comet, even with the closest approach in 10 years at a distance of 10.9 AU, according to astronomers, it will be impossible to see it with the naked eye, but only in the largest amateur telescopes.

Interesting facts about the Oort cloud

This is a hypothetical cloud named after the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort. It surrounds the solar system over 3 light years away. The outer edge of the Oort cloud defines the boundary of the solar system.

Long-period comets can appear in the Oort cloud

Although the question of the origin of the Oort cloud has not yet been resolved, astronomers believe that all long-period comets originate in the Oort cloud.

The Oort cloud is really very large

It is believed that it looks like a spherical ball, the shell of which extends from 2-5 thousand astronomical units (0.03-0.08 light years) from the Sun to about 100-200 thousand AU. (1.58 – 3.16 light years) from the Sun. That’s a lot, considering that Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, is only 4.22 light years away.

The Oort cloud is only 5 times more massive than Earth

Scientists have calculated that the Oort cloud contains several trillion objects with a diameter of more than 1 km and several billion more objects with a diameter of about 20 km, and the distance between these objects is several tens of millions of kilometers. Although the total mass of the Oort cloud is unknown, the total mass of objects in the Oort cloud is about 5 times the mass of the Earth.

We remind you that recently astronomers have discovered new comets and one of them will hit Venus with its tail.

Also Focus wrote that scientists have figured out where the giant Oort cloud came from.