Another study revealed that this giant is heading towards the sun – but don’t worry, it won’t pose any kind of threat to us on Earth because it won’t come close to Saturn’s orbit.
The comet, named Bernardinelli-Bernstein after its discoverers, is estimated to be about 95 miles in diameter and identified using data from the Dark Energy Survey. Since its discovery, researchers have been sifting through the data to learn more about it and will soon publish a paper on it in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The comet has a very elongated orbit and is currently heading out of the Oort cloud – a hypothesized group of icy bodies far from Plutos orbit, according to the new paper, and it will reach perihelion, or the point at which it approaches the Sun in 2031. It will come in at about 11 AU from the Sun (astronomical units, where 1 AU is the average distance between the Sun and Earth), which puts it outside Saturn’s orbit, according to Digitartlends.
This gives scientists an exciting opportunity to study comets up close (ish), using instruments like the upcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory. This observatory will survey the sky to identify many comets, even those much smaller than Bernardinelli-Bernstein. The observatory will also track the comet as it approaches to allow For researchers to learn more about things from the Oort cloud and what they can tell us about the early solar system.
“We have the privilege of discovering perhaps the biggest comet we’ve ever seen – or at least bigger than any well-studied comet – and finding it early enough for people to watch as it evolves as it approaches and warms,” discoverer Gary Bernstein said earlier. Over 3 million years old.”