Sunday, October 17, 2021

Can Comet Bernardinelli-Amber hit Earth? Monster rocks racing towards the solar system

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The comet is 1,000 times larger than most human-seen comets and will cross us over the next 10 years

Comets can be beautiful to watch with their sparkling tails flying past in the sky. However, a new comet is now heading towards us and will cross us in the next 10 years. Known as Bernardinelli amber, the comet is at least 100 km in diameter, making it at least 1,000 times larger than most comets ever seen by humans.

Although it is heading towards our solar system, scientists believe that Comet Bernardinelli-Amber will not harm Earth. The comet will reportedly pass just outside of Saturn’s orbit – a distance of 10.97 AU from the Sun. The comet is currently flying through the Oort cloud with about 29 AU.

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The discoverers of the giant object – the astronomers Gary Bernstein and Pedro Bernardinelli from the University of Pennsylvania – have confirmed their assumption that it is a “megacomet”. “The almost spherical cometary cow,” says the title of their work, which they submitted on September 23 for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The comet was initially mistaken for a dwarf planet traveling through the Oort cloud. It was later discovered that the rock moves extremely quickly through the Oort cloud. Its luminous “coma”, which always occurs when a comet heats up, ultimately confirmed that it was a one and not a dwarf planet, as previously assumed.

“The story the comet tells would tell us what existed in the solar system billions of years ago, and we can use that to understand the things we see elsewhere in the solar system today,” Bernardinelli told The Daily Beast. This is not the first time this comet has passed our solar system. At a much further distance of 18 AU, the comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein flew past our solar system 3.5 billion years ago and then traveled 40,000 AU in the Oort cloud. To observe the comet from Earth, which is due to arrive in 2031, one must use a telescope. “We conclude that BB is a ‘new’ comet in the sense that there is no evidence for it [a] previous approach closer than 18 AU, “said the researchers.

The comet was first discovered by the Dark Energy Survey project. In the project, which ran from August 2013 to January 2019, astronomers mapped nearly 300 million galaxies and discovered 800 unknown objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. The comet Bernardinelli amber was one of the objects discovered.

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