Giant Comet Heading to Earth
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is a thousand times larger than the average comet and it's approaching at a high rate of speed.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA — An enormous comet from the outskirts of the solar system is heading towards Earth. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is a thousand times larger than the average comet and it's approaching at a high rate of speed. Here are the details:
Live Science reports that a huge comet that's so large it's classified as a "minor planet" has been spotted beyond Uranus and is coming toward Earth for a very rare visit in 2031.
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is still far away and hard to see, but the current estimate is that its icy core is around 100 kilometers in diameter, which is extremely large for a comet.
It'll make its closest approach in 2031, when it'll sail just outside of the orbit of our sun's sixth planet, Saturn.
Normal long-period comets take more than 200 years to complete an orbit around the Sun, but this one is estimated to take a whopping 5.5 million years to complete its orbit.
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein comes from the Oort Cloud, a spherical cloud of icy objects framing our solar system at around 50,000 to 100,000 Astronomical Units from the Sun, that's 100,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.
Scientists estimate this comet could itself be from as far away as 60,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.
Like all comets, this one will round the Sun and head off back to where it came from.
Another comet that might have originated in the mysterious Oort Cloud is Halley's Comet, which is visible from Earth every 75 years.
Halley is therefore the only naked-eye comet that can appear twice in a human lifetime. It last appeared over Earth in 1986, when it stood out clearly in the night sky. It will next appear in 2061.
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