Comet 2014 UN271 was the largest comet ever observed in the history of science

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of researchers from the Paris Observatory, France, and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, Spain, have confirmed that comet 2014 UN271 is the largest comet ever observed.

Comet 2014 UN271, also known as Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, was first discovered in 2014. Back then, scientists were able to calculate that the comet originated from the Oort Cloud. At that time, the comet was about the same distance from us as Neptune, and astronomers had no idea of ​​its size.

Seven years later, as the comet came closer to us, it became clear that it was larger than most other comets. At that time, researchers suggested that its size ranged from 100 to 370 kilometers.

In the new study, using data collected from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array radio observatory, the team studied the wavelengths of light reflected from a comet to get more accurate information about its size (most other estimates of comet sizes were based on determining the area of ​​land occupied by comets on sky).

In particular, the researchers concentrated their efforts on studying those microwave wavelengths that were not emitted by the dust surrounding the comet.

According to the team’s calculations, for the comet to reflect the amount of light that was recorded, its diameter would have to be about 137 kilometers – a value close to the lower threshold for the masses of minor planets.

The previous record holder was Comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), which measured approximately 74 kilometers.

The researchers also show that their measurements of comet 2014 UN271 are the farthest measurements of a comet’s reflectivity (albedo) ever made in space.

They note that measuring the size of a comet from such a large distance will provide further valuable data on the evolution of the comet’s size as it approaches the Sun. It is expected that on the way back from the Sun, the comet can decrease in size by almost half.


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