DES images from 2014 to 2018 did not show that typical coma. However, within a day of astronomers announcing their discovery through the Minor Planet Center, astronomers from the Las Cumbres Observatory took new images of the object that showed it had been in a coma for the past three years: the Bernardinelli-Bernstein Comet. guilty.
Its current journey into the interior of the solar system began at a distance of more than 40,000 astronomical units from the sun, 40,000 times more than the sun from Earth, after all, an astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the sun. This is about 6 trillion kilometers, and by comparison, it is one-seventh of the distance to the nearest star, and Pluto – a trans-Neptune object – is on average 39 AU from the Sun.
This means that Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein descended from the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical giant cloud of billions of objects thrown out of the Solar System in the early Solar System’s history. The comet could be the largest Oort cloud object ever discovered, and the first comet orbiting the solar system discovered so far.
The comet is now much closer to the sun. It was first seen by DES in 2014 at a distance of 29 AU – 4 billion km or roughly the distance between Neptune and the Sun – and in June 2021 it was 20 AU from the Sun – 3 billion km or the distance between Uranus and the Sun.
The orbit of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is perpendicular to the plane of the solar system and the comet will reach perihelion – the closest point to the Sun from its orbit – in 2031. Then it will be about 11 more AU from the Sun. 1.6 billion kilometers or a little more than Saturn’s distance from the Sun.
Despite the comet’s large size, it is currently expected that it will only be visible with a large amateur telescope, even when it is at its zenith.
“We are fortunate that we discovered perhaps the biggest comet we’ve ever seen – or at least a comet bigger than any well-studied comet – and caught it early enough that people could watch it evolve as it got closer.” “He hasn’t visited the solar system in more than 3 million years,” said Gary Bernstein.
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