Largest discovered comet found

Largest discovered comet found
Largest discovered comet found

Recently discovered by the telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory, a visitor to the outer reaches of the solar system turned out to be the largest comet known.

Called Comet C / 2014 UN271 Bernardinelli-Bernstein after two discoverers, the object was first announced on Saturday, June 19, 2021. C / 2014 UN271 was discovered by reprocessing four-year data from the Dark Energy Survey, which was carried out with the 4-meter Blanco Telescope of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile between 2013 and 2019. At the time of the announcement, there was no indication that this is an active world. Astronomers were immediately outraged. C / 2014 UN271 arrived from the colder outer reaches of the solar system, so it took quick imaging to find out: When will a comet's tail appear in the big new world?

The Las Cumbres Observatory was able to quickly determine if the object had turned into an active comet in the 3 years since it was first detected in the Dark Energy Survey. “Since the new object was far to the south and rather faint, we knew that few other telescopes would be able to observe it,” says Dr. Tim Lister of the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO). “Fortunately, the LCO has a network of robotic telescopes around the world, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, and we were able to quickly get images from the LCO telescopes in South Africa.”

Images from one of the 1-meter LCO telescopes at the South African Astronomical Observatory were captured at around 9:00 p.m. PT on June 22. Astronomers from New Zealand, members of the LCO Outbursting Objects Key (LOOK) project, were the first to notice the new comet.

“Since we are a team based around the world, it just happened that it was my day while others were sleeping. In the first picture, the comet was obscured by a satellite band and my heart sank. But then other images were clear enough: here it is, definitely a beautiful little fuzzy point, not at all clear, like neighboring stars,”said Michelle Bannister from the University of Canterbury New Zealand. Analysis of LCO images revealed a fuzzy coma around the object, indicating that it was active and indeed a comet, although it is still more than 1,800,000,000 miles away, more than double the distance from Saturn to the Sun.

The comet's diameter is estimated to be more than 100 km, which is more than 3 times the size of the next largest nucleus of the famous comet, comet Hale-Bopp, which was discovered in 1995. This comet is not expected to become bright with the naked eye: it will remain a telescopic object because its closest distance to the Sun will still be outside Saturn. Since comet C / 2014 UN271 was discovered so far away, astronomers will have over 10 years to study it. It will approach the Sun as close as possible in January 2031.

Thus, astronomers of the LOOK project will have enough time to use the telescopes of the Las Cambres observatory to study C / 2014 UN271. The LOOK project continues to observe the behavior of a large number of comets and how their activity changes as it approaches the Sun. Scientists are also using the LCO's rapid response ability to get observations quickly.

“Currently, a large number of filming is being carried out. These studies could warn if one of the comets suddenly changes brightness, and then we can activate the robotic LCO telescopes to get more detailed data and more closely watch the changing comet as the survey moves to other regions of the sky,”explains Tim ?? Lister …“Robotic telescopes and sophisticated LCO software allow images of a new event within 15 minutes of warning. This allows you to really study these outbreaks as they develop."

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