An ancient comet believed to be more than 4 billion years old is heading toward Earth. The massive comet is at least 80 miles wide, twice the width of Rhode Island. It is currently accelerating toward Earth at 22,000 miles per hour.
This ancient comet is the largest comet ever discovered
The comet in question is currently moving toward Earth at 22,000 miles per hour. It bulges from the edge of our solar system. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about the comet’s impact on Earth. It will never happen more than a billion miles from the sun, astronomers say. This is a little further than the distance between Earth and Saturn.
An ancient comet is expected to fly close to Earth sometime in 2031. This means we have a few years before we have to worry about this ancient orb. However, it is always interesting to know when comets and asteroids head our way.
David Jewett, professor of planetary sciences and astronomy at UCLA, co-authored a study on the comet. Jewett and colleagues published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. He says that objects like this ancient comet were “kicked out” from the solar system a long time ago.
The comets then settled in the Oort cloud, Jewett says, the huge group of distant comets that surround our solar system. Then other comets like this ancient comet orbit the solar system billions of miles in space.
Meet Comet C / 2014 UN271
Aside from making its way back to Earth, there’s one more thing that makes this ancient comet fascinating. For example, astronomers say this comet has the largest nucleus of any comet we’ve seen so far. They determined the size of the core using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. They currently estimate the comet to be up to 85 miles in size.
Comet C/2014 UN271 was first observed by Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein. It was first spotted by astronomers in 2010. At that time, the ancient comet was 3 billion miles from the sun. It is now less than 2 billion miles from the sun. Jewett says it will continue on its current loop, eventually returning to the Oort cloud in a few million years.
Jewett says This ancient comet is “bigger and darker than coal”. The team estimates the comet’s size at around 500 trillion tons. This is 100,000 times the mass of a typical comet near the Sun.
David Jewett, UCLA Professor of Planetary Science and Astronomy and co-author of the book New study In the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “We have always suspected that this comet must be large because it is so bright at such a great distance. Now we have confirmed it.”
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