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World

14 Apr 2022

NASA spy 'Largest Comet ever seen' barreling towards Earth at 22,000 mph

NASA spy 'Largest Comet ever seen' barreling towards Earth at 22,000 mph

The Index Today

A comet with a nucleus 50 times bigger than normal is barreling towards Earth at 22,000 miles per hour. It was first spotted in 2010 but only now has Hubble confirmed its existence. And it's larger than any comet ever seen by astronomers before.

Nasa, which describes the icy dirtball as a behemoth "barrelling this way", has named it Bernardinelli-Bernstein after its discovery by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein.

Nasa's Hubble telescope has determined the comet's icy nucleus has a mass of about 500 trillion tonnes and is 85 miles (137km) wide - larger than the US state of Rhode Island. But scientists say not to worry since the closest it will get is one billion miles away from the Sun, and that won't be until 2031.


David Jewitt, a professor of planetary science and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said, "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."



Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein first sighted it while working at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile over a decade ago when it was three billion miles from the Sun. Comets are described by NASA as icy "Lego blocks," left over from the early days of planet construction.


"They were unceremoniously tossed out of the Solar System in a gravitational pinball game among the massive outer planets," it said in a statement.

"The kicked-out comets took up residence in the Oort Cloud, a vast reservoir of far-flung comets encircling the Solar System."


©Photo: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva