December 10, 2023

Von dem hier illustrierten Kometen Bernardinelli-Berstein wird vermutet, dass er ungefähr tausendmal größer ist als ein ...

Bernardinelli-Bernstein approaches us: a giant comet on its way to the sun

Depending on how many gases are created when the icy surface evaporates from the sun’s heat, Bernardinelli’s amber can shine in the night sky like Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. If so, the comet can be seen in 2031 by anyone with a reasonably good hobby telescope.

What distinguishes Bernardinelli amber is its distance from the Sun when it was first observed. An icy celestial body probably comes from the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical group of astronomical bodies at the edge of the Solar System 1.6 light-years from the Sun.

According to astronomical calculations, a comet takes several million years to orbit the sun. To date, only three such long-period comets have been known from the Oort cloud. The fact that Bernardinelli-Berstein has already been observed at a distance of 4.3 billion km from the Sun is a real record. Its early discovery will enable several generations of astronomers to gradually reveal its secrets.

A small point of light in space

Humanity would never have known Amber Bernardinelli had it not been for a highly sensitive digital camera mounted in the 4-meter Victor M Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Pan-American Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert.

Finding distant objects in our solar system is not the main task of this camera. Its primary purpose is to provide data for the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a sky survey project that collects information about the accelerating expansion of the universe and the effect of dark matter. Für DES wurden zwischen 2013 und 2019 80.000 ability.

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Pedro Bernardinelli used data from the Dark Energy Survey to find previously undiscovered objects orbiting the sun above Neptune as part of his doctoral thesis. A big task, because each image is so huge that it takes 275 HD TV screens to display it in the highest resolution. Pedro Bernadinelli had to search tens of thousands of these images for points of light just a few pixels in size.