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Astronomers confirm comet with largest nucleus ever found

Using the Hubble Space Telescope astronomers determined that the nucleus of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein (C/2014 UN271) is about 80 miles wide, making it the largest comet on record.

The estimated diameter is approximately 80 miles across, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island. The nucleus is about 50 times larger than found at the heart of most known comets. Its mass is estimated to be a staggering 500 trillion tons, a hundred thousand times greater than the mass of a typical comet found much closer to the Sun.

The behemoth comet, C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is barreling this way at 22,000 miles per hour from the edge of the solar system. But not to worry. It will never get closer than 1 billion miles away from the Sun, which is slightly farther than the distance of the planet Saturn. And that won’t be until the year 2031.

The previous record holder is comet C/2002 VQ94, with a nucleus estimated to be 60 miles across. It was discovered in 2002 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project.

This measurement does have a great deal of uncertainty, as Hubble cannot yet resolve the nucleus, and thus its diameter was determined by computer models based on the size of the comet’s coma, or surrounding atmosphere.

The comet itself has an orbit 3 million years long, which means it has zipped into the inner solar system many many times. The reason its nucleus remains so large is because its orbit never gets that close to the Sun, so its material does not get burned off so much with each perihelion. That it exists suggests there could be many such large comets which never dip close to the Sun.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

4 comments

  • Skunk Bucket

    Contrast Bob’s factual and level-headed headline with how Microsoft News reported it yesterday: “The Largest Comet Ever Has Just Been Confirmed By NASA and It’s Heading Our Way”. For the barest of moments, I thought there was a chance we were going to get creamed by Lucifer’s Hammer, but then I considered the source and looked closer. To their credit, the article did state that the comet would come no closer to the sun than the orbit of Saturn.

  • Call Me Ishmael

    “… it has zipped into the inner solar system many many times”

    The “inner solar system” is generally defined as within the orbit of Mars, in which case no, it never has. On the other hand the “inner solar system” might one day be considered anything this side of the Kuiper Belt, in which case yes, indeed.

  • ” . . .barreling this way at 22,000 miles per hour . . .”

    Yawn.

    We’ve done better.

  • Jeff Wright

    In a million years, 2060 Chiron…a Centaur-could become a short period comet that is 200 km wide…as Gliese 710 passes through-called DM 61 366 in The Starflight Handbook.

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