'Mega comet' 60 miles wide is about to fly through the solar system - ednews.net

8 December, Wednesday

'Mega comet' 60 miles wide is about to fly through the solar system

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A comet unlike any other in recorded history is on a trajectory to zip through the inner solar system in less than a decade, but astronomers say this one actually isn't anything to lose sleep over.
 
Comet 2014 UN271 was first observed during a mission called the Dark Energy Survey in 2014, but skywatchers didn't realize that the data was showing a comet until just this month.
 
Pedro Bernardelli and Gary Bernstein were the two people who made this realization, giving Comet 2014 UN271 a name that rolls off the tongue a bit easier: Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein.
 
This discovery could be one for the record books, leading some to call it a "mega comet." It's estimated to be between 60 and 230 miles wide, which could make it the largest comet ever discovered, according to EarthSky.
 
To put the size in context, Halley's Comet is about 3.5 miles wide, New York City's Long Island is 118 miles long and part of the Florida peninsula is 160 miles across.
 
Despite its size, experts say the comet is nothing for the people of Earth to worry about -- but there is the chance that it could put on a show in the sky on its first trip to the inner solar system in the far future.
 
A bad day would be an understatement if a space rock of this size was on a collision course with Earth and slammed into the land.
 
The asteroid believed to have been a factor in the extinction of the dinosaurs was estimated to be about seven miles wide when it hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, creating a crater that was 125 miles wide.
 
A space rock the size of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein hitting land would be orders of magnitude worse with impacts on a global scale and shifts in the climate. If the rock missed land and splashed down in the ocean instead, it could generate a tsunami.
 
Rest assured, there is no chance of these scenarios unfolding in 2031 when the comet makes its closest approach to the sun, according to data from NASA.
 
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is already closer to the sun than Neptune, but it will not even reach the orbit of Saturn in 2031 before it starts its long journey back to the far reaches of the solar system.
 
Given current projections, a telescope will be needed to spot the gigantic comet in the sky since it will remain far away from the Earth, but it could still surprise onlookers in 2031.
 

 

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