NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope confirmed the largest icy comet nucleus ever seen by astronomers, with a mass of 500 billion tons. It is said to be a hundred thousand times greater than the mass of a typical “comet that is much closer to the Sun”.
NASA revealed that the comet’s estimated diameter appears to be 80 miles across, which means it is larger than the US state of Rhode Island.
The comet’s nucleus is about 50 times larger compared to those found in most known comets, NASA says.
The US-based space agency further revealed that comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is heading towards Earth at 22,000 miles per hour.
However, there is no need to worry as it will not come close to the planet. NASA noted: “It will never come closer than a billion miles from the Sun, which is a little further than the distance of the planet Saturn. And that won’t be until the year 2031.”
READ ALSO | ‘They look like alien footprints’: NASA publishes an impressive image. Read details here
“This comet is literally the tip of the iceberg of many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in more distant parts of the solar system,” NASA quoted David Jewitt, professor of planetary science and astronomy at the University as saying. of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and co-author of the new study in astrophysical journal letters.
“We always suspected this comet had to be big because it’s so bright at such a great distance. Now we’ve confirmed it,” added Jewitt.
“This is an amazing object, given how active it is when it’s still so far from the Sun,” said the paper’s lead author, Man-To Hui, of Macau University of Science and Technology, Taipa, Macau.
“We assumed that the comet might be quite large, but we needed the best data to confirm it,” Hui added.
READ ALSO | The most distant planet in the solar system shows an unexplained temperature change
Image credits: NASA, ESA, Man-To Hui (Macau University of Science and Technology), David Jewitt (UCLA); Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
NASA stated that the team used Hubble to take five photos of the comet on January 8, 2022.
The news about asteroids and meteorites hurtling towards Earth is reminiscent of the popular Hollywood movie ‘Don’t Look Up’, which was basically a satire. In the film, two astronomers warn of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth, but the warning is ignored resulting in an apocalypse.
However, the reality is quite far from the film, as there is no doubt that space agencies around the world send out alerts and remain vigilant.
WATCH this NASA explanation: