Astronomers have confirmed the existence of a massive comet – and they say it’s hurtling towards our planet. The comet was discovered by University of Pennsylvania astronomers Pedro Bernadinelli and Gary Bernstein, as per The Daily Beast report.
The pair initially discovered evidence of a 60 to 100-mile wide comet seven years ago and has finally published a paper that confirms it. The paper can be found in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Returning after billions of years
Named the Bernardinelli-Bernstein (BB) comet, the par also described it as the “nearly spherical cow of comets” in the paper. What’s more interesting is the fact that the comet is headed towards our planet for a return journey that began during the astronomical events that formed Earth billions of years ago.
Moreover, its next closest approach will occur in 2031. Fortunately, it’ll be out of reach, cruising between the orbits of Uranus and Saturn. Astronomers say it’ll offer an amazing opportunity to study the object, which they hope will reveal groundbreaking discoveries about what the solar system was before planets came into being.
“It’s pristine,” Bernardinelli told The Daily Beast. “Not a lot has happened to this object since its formation in the early days of the solar system, and so we can think of it as a window into the past.”
Another massive comet moving towards Sun
Previously, it was reported that a massive space rock was hurtling towards the inner solar system from deep space. The comet was moving towards the Sun, but it’s common. However, this one, called 2014 UN271, is different from others for a couple of reasons.
Its size is around 200 km, putting it between a giant comet and a dwarf planet. Compared this with the recent large and bright comet Hale-Bopp was only 40 km in size. If the estimated size of 2014 UN271 is correct, it might be the biggest comet ever spotted. It’s possible that part of the width in early observations could be a tail and that the nucleus is smaller than it appears to astronomers.