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Giant Mega Comet Previously Thought To Be Dwarf Planet Is Heading For Our Solar System

by : Julia Banim on : 30 Sep 2021 08:48
Giant Mega Comet Previously Thought To Be Dwarf Planet Is Heading For Our Solar SystemNOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva (Spaceengine)/Buena Vista Pictures

A giant ‘megacomet’ previously believed to be a dwarf planet is said to be heading straight towards our solar system.

Comet C/2014 UN271 was first spotted back in 2014 by Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, astronomers from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Measuring in at an extraordinary 160 km, this comet was initially mistaken for a dwarf planet. However, after astronomers noted signs of activity, it was later reclassified as a comet.

Of course, given its vast size, Comet C/2014 UN271 is no ordinary comet. To give some perspective, this comet has ten times the mass of Hale-Bopp, a record-breaking celestial object nicknamed the ‘Great Comet’ back in 1997 due to its 30km diameter.

Although certainly large, Hale-Bopp is significantly smaller than the mighty Comet C/2014 UN271, which is also said to be approximately seven times the size of Phobos, Mars’ satellite.

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According to The Weather Channel, this object – which is also known as the Bernardinelli-Bernstein Comet after those who first discovered it – is expected to pass through our solar system at its closest approach just one short decade from now, in 2031.

Now, as terrifying as this close encounter certainly sounds to anyone who has ever sat through a disaster movie, it looks as though we don’t have too much to worry about this time around.

The Bernardinelli-Bernstein Comet is expected to be approximately 10.9 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun.

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To give some idea of this distance, there is one Astronomical Unit between the Sun and our planet, meaning it’s probable that this mammoth comet will simply brush by Saturn’s orbit, missing us altogether. Phew.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Science, Now, Solar System

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Weather Channel
  1. Weather Channel

    A Megacomet—One So Big, It Was Previously Misidentified As a Dwarf Planet!—Is Approaching Our Solar System