NASA: Record Breaking ‘Megacomet’ heading towards Earth, 500 Trillion Ton Ice Ball

NASA has discovered a record-breaking comet flying straight for Earth, but don’t worry, we’re fine. The big comet has been known to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope since 2010 when it was around 3 billion miles from the Sun. Since then, NASA scientists have been learning more about it in order to determine how large it may be. Because it has been active at such a great distance from the Sun, it was previously assumed that the comet was very huge, but new Hubble Space Telescope data published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters has provided a more detailed picture.

NASA has discovered a record-breaking comet on its way to Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope captured five photographs of the comet earlier this year, but determining its size isn’t as straightforward. The photos were utilized to distinguish between the comet’s solid core in the center and the huge dusty coma around it. Given the distance between the photos, it is difficult to determine the difference.

Instead, scientists used the light that identifies the comet’s core to create a computer model of the hazy envelope or coma that will surround it. After that, the researchers aligned it with the photos and removed the coma’s light, leaving just the solid nucleus. We can acquire a better image of the comet by combining the new data with studies from radio observations performed by the ALMA observatory in Chile. When the scientists compared the data, they discovered that the diameters were similar, but the comet’s surface is darker than previously imagined.

The item is “huge and blacker than coal,” according to one researcher.

What is the size of the approaching comet?

C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is a comet that is approaching Earth at a speed of 22,000 miles per hour from the end of the solar system. It features an ice nucleus that is 80 miles wide and 50 times larger than the center of most known comets, which is the largest we’ve ever observed.

It has a mass of roughly 500 trillion tonnes, which is a hundred thousand times that of a normal comet located closer to the Sun, according to scientists. Remember, we’re safe since the comet won’t travel much closer to the Sun than a billion miles. It will be farther away from Earth than Saturn, and it will not even get near to Earth until 2031.

Why should we be interested in learning more about the approaching comet?

The comet is billions of years old, dating back to the beginning of the solar system. It comes from the Oort Cloud, which has been falling back to the Sun for at least a million years and is near the limit of our planetary neighborhood.

Scientists believe that Oort Cloud comets originated considerably closer to our star but were flung out to the solar system’s outskirts when the larger outer planets found their orbits in the solar system’s early days. We may be able to learn more about the Oort Cloud, including its magnitude and how items like the distant cloud were generated if we continue to study the comedy. The cloud is around 5000 times farther away from our Sun than we are, making it harder to observe directly, which is where this comet may be able to help.

What do you think?

Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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