Bernardinelli-Bernstein’s Comet, as it’s now known, won’t make its closest approach to the sun for another 10 years, but the object is already showing signs of life, as this fascinating new image shows.
Astronomers with Las Cumbres Observatory This image was taken on the evening of June 22, 2021, confirming that the object is an active comet. The upcoming Oort cloud object, initially set on the minor planet 2014 UN271, has been renamed Comet C/2014 UN271 Bernardinelli-Bernstein in honor of two of its discoverers, Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, both of whom are scanned by dark energy.
LCO chest A picture of the comet on July 14, a cloudy layer appears surrounding the comet’s nucleus. That this body is a comet rather than a minor planet – a fictional term for an asteroid – is now becoming increasingly clear.
was the culprit discoverer In dark energy survey data collected by the Blanco telescope in Chile from 2013 to 2019. Confirmation of the comet’s active status came just three days after the initial announcement of its discovery in June. 19. Comets are filled with ice, and this ice begins to sublimate – it turns from solid directly in Gas – when an object approaches the sun.
With an estimated size of 62-230 miles (100-370 kilometers) in length, the body has the potential to exist Among the largest comets ever discovered. The size of the nucleus of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein still needs to be improved, so it is still too early to make any definitive announcement on the matter. However, if confirmed, it could be three times the size of the current record holder, Comet Hale-Bopp, which came close to it in 1995.
The Las Cumbres observatory was well placed to confirm that the object was a comet. The observatory boasts a network of robotic telescopes around the world, including in the Southern Hemisphere where views of the body are ideal.
“Because the new object was so far south and quite faint, we knew there wouldn’t be many other telescopes that could observe it,” explained Tim Lister, staff scientist at LCO, in statement.
The main image was acquired by the LCO telescopes at the South African Astronomical Observatory. Due to a transverse time zone, astronomers in New Zealand – members of the LCO Outbursting Objects Key (LOOK) project – were the first to discover the telltale signs of a comet.
“Because we are a team based around the world, it just so happened that it was noon, while the other people were asleep,” Michelle Bannister, an astronomer at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said in the LCO statement.. “The first image was obscuring the comet with the satellite line and my heart sank. But then the others were clear and dazzling: there is surely a beautiful little misty dot, which is not at all as clear as the stars next to it!”
Active comet state is a runaway result, Given its current location about 1.8 billion miles from the sun. at about 20 AU from the Sun (where 1 AU equals mean distance from Earth to Sun), the object is currently closer than Neptune (30 AU) but still more than twice the distance from Saturn (9.5 AU). It will take Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein another 10 years to approach its closest point, at which time it will be 10.95 AU from the Sun. After reaching perihelion, the comet will return to the Oort cloud, on a journey that could take hundreds of thousands Perhaps even millions of years.
The comet is now active, so it’s interesting to think about what it might look like in 2031. However, it probably won’t be visible to the naked eye, Given the enormous distances involved, but it shouldn’t be a problem observing the comet with a telescope. Regardless, the object will provide astronomers with an unprecedented view of a large-scale comet and the expected “fireworks display,” said Meg Schwamb, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, describe it For me last month.
But as the new image shows, we won’t have to wait until 2031 to enjoy this comet and its science shows, as it’s already starting a light show.