Nasa spots a comet larger than any they’ve seen heading towards Earth

Nasa has captured the Hubble Space Telescope’s largest ever comet – and it is heading Earth’s direction.

The space rock’s core is estimated to have an icy nucleus measuring around 80 miles in diameter. This is 50 times larger than the average comet’s heart and weighs 500 trillion tons.

It was named C/2014 UN271 (or Bernardinelli-Bernstein)It was discovered by Gary Bernstein and Pedro Berninelli 12 years ago. They found it in 2010, when it was 3 billion kilometers from the Sun or Neptune.

The comet has been moving at 22,000 mph since it was discovered.

However, it doesn’t mean doom for Earth. The comet will not pass anywhere near our atmosphere. It is approximately a billion kilometers from the Sun (and that won’t happen until 2031). Saturn, however, will be even farther away.

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“This comet is literally the tip of the iceberg for many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in the more distant parts of the solar system,”David Jewitt, professor of planetary science at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), is co-author of the new studyIn The Astrophysical Journal Letters said.

“We’ve always suspected this comet had to be big because it is so bright at such a large distance. Now we confirm it is.”

The Hubble Telescope has been helping scientists to track the spacerock. It is difficult to see because it is obscured by a layer (coma), of dust and gases that blocks light from it.

However, thanks to Hubble images that show the nucleus in bright light and a computer-generated model that can adjust dust to fit into the images and reduce dusty glow to a solid, “star-like nucleus”it is forgotten.

The computer model revealed the star-like nucleus after it was dimmed by the dusty glow from the coma.NASA, ESA and Man-To Hui (Macau University of Science and Technology), David Jewitt, (UCLA); Image processing by Alyssa Pgan (STScI).

The brightness of the nucleus was then compared to earlier observations by Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, while both recorded the same size, it suggested a darker nucleus surface than previously thought.

“It’s big and it’s blacker than coal,”Jewitt added.

All this research aside, the comet is thought to be billions and years old. It is believed to have originated from Oort Cloud. The comet has been falling towards the Sun for over a million year, making it an antique from earlier solar systems.

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