NASA confirms largest comet ever seen is heading towards Earth

NASA has confirmed that the largest comet ever observed by a human is larger than expected and is making its way toward Earth.

@JakConnorTT
Published Wed, Apr 13 2022 12:33 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, May 5 2022 5:25 AM CDT

NASA has confirmed that the largest comet ever observed has a diameter of about 85 miles and is now officially the largest comet ever seen after observations from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The comet is C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein (BB)) and was originally discovered in 2014 by two astronomers, Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, through archived images from the Dark Energy Survey. Previous estimates for the size of BB were anywhere between 62 and 124 miles, but now NASA has pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at the comet and confirmed the diameter of its nucleus to be 85 miles across.

NASA writes on its blog that BB has beaten the previous record-holder comet C/2002 VQ94 which has an estimated nucleus of 60 miles across. The space agency explains that the comet has been hurling toward Earth for 1 million years now and won't pose any threat to Earth when it makes its approach in 2031, where it won't come within a billion miles of Earth, or about the distance to Saturn.

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A good way to imagine the size of BB is to think that if the total size of BB is taken into account, it will be larger than the state of Rhode Island.

"This is an amazing object, given how active it is when it's still so far from the Sun. We guessed the comet might be pretty big, but we needed the best data to confirm this," said the paper's lead author Man-To Hui of the Macau University of Science and Technology, Taipa, Macau.

"This comet is literally the tip of the iceberg for many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in the more distant parts of the solar system. We've always suspected this comet had to be big because it is so bright at such a large distance. Now we confirm it is," said David Jewitt, a professor of planetary science and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and co-author of the new study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science and space news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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