A 4 billion year old monument from the early solar system goes our way

This sequence shows how the nucleus of the comet C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) was isolated from the vast shell of dust and gas surrounding solid ice. On the left is a photo of the comet taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s Whitefield Camera 3 on January 8, 2022. The model of the coma (middle group) was obtained by matching the assembled surface light from the observed image. Left side. This allowed the coma to subside, revealing a dot-like glow from the fetus. In conjunction with radio telescopic data, astronomers accurately measure the size of the nucleus. From about 2 billion miles away it was no small feat. Although the nucleus is estimated to be as large as 85 miles, it is still an unresolved distance by Hubble. Its size was derived from its reflection measured by Hubble. The nucleus is estimated to be as black as charcoal. The nuclear part was derived from radio observations. Credit: NASA, ESA, Man-To Hui (Macau University of Science and Technology), David Jewitt (UCLA) Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

A massive comet – approximately 80 miles across, twice the width of Rhode Island – travels our way from the edge of the solar system at 22,000 miles per hour. Fortunately, it does not come close to 1 billion miles from the Sun, which is slightly further away from Earth than Saturn; That will be in 2031.

Among the oldest objects in the solar system are comets and icy bodies that were unexpectedly thrown out of the solar system during a game of gravitational pinball between massive outer planets, said David Juvid. UCLA Professor of Planetary Science and Astronomy has co-authored a new study on comets. Letters from the Astrophysical Journal. The ejected comets rested on the Oort cloud, a vast reservoir of distant comets that travel billions of miles deep into space around the Solar System, he said.

The spectacular multi-million-mile-long tail of a typical comet, which looks like a skyscraper, disproves the fact that the source at the center of the fireworks is a solid nucleus of dusty ice — essentially a dirty snowball. This largest one, known as the Comet C / 2014 UN271, was discovered by Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein and may be as large as 85 miles across.

“This comet is the tip of the iceberg for many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in remote parts of the solar system,” Juvid said. “We always suspected that this comet must be bigger because it’s so bright at such a great distance. Now we’ve confirm it.”

This comet has the largest nucleus ever seen on a comet by astronomers. Javid and his colleagues used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to determine the size of its nucleus. Its nucleus is about 50 times larger than that of known comets. Its mass is estimated at 500 trillion tons, which is hundreds of thousands of times the mass of a common comet found very close to the Sun.

Mann-du Hui, a leading author who graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a Ph.D. Taiba, Macau. “We guessed the comet might be too big, but we need better data to confirm this.”

So the researchers used Hubble to take five photos of the comet on January 8, 2022, and incorporated radio observations of the comet into their analysis.

A 4 billion year old monument from the early solar system goes our way

Graph of the comet C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) ice, comparing the size of the solid nucleus with many other comets. Credit: NASA, ESA, Zena Levy (STScI)

Juvit said the comet is now 2 billion miles from the Sun and will return to its nesting site in the Oort cloud in a few million years.

Comet C / 2014 UN271 was accidentally spotted in 2010 when it was 3 billion miles away from the Sun. Since then, it has been actively studied by ground and space-based telescopes.

The challenge in measuring this comet is how to determine the solid embryo from the large dusty coma – the dust and gas cloud – that surrounds it. The comet is currently so far away that its nucleus cannot be visually resolved by Hubble. Instead, Hubble shows a bright spike of light at the location of the data nucleus. Hui and his colleagues next created a computer model of the surrounding coma and adjusted it to fit the Hubble images. Later, they left the womb after the glow of coma.

Hui and his team compared the brightness of the nucleus with previous radio observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array or Alma in Chile. The new Hubble measurements are closer to the previous size rating of the ALMA, but definitely suggest a darker black surface than previously thought.

“It’s bigger and blacker than coal,” Juvid said.

The comet has been falling towards the Sun for over 1 million years. The Oort cloud is thought to be home to trillions of comets. Juvid thinks that the Oort cloud extends at least a quarter of the distance of the stars closest to our Sun, a few hundred times farther than the distance between the Sun and the Earth in the Alpha Centauri system.

According to Juvit, the comets in the Oort cloud were ejected from the solar system billions of years ago by the gravitational pull of massive extraterrestrials. The professor said that distant comets will only return to the Sun and the planets if their orbits are disturbed by the gravitational pull of the passing star.

First predicted by the Dutch astronomer John Oort in 1950, the Oort cloud is still a theory because the comets that make it up are so dim and invisible at a direct distance. This means that the largest structure of the solar system is all invisible, Juvid said.


Comet 2014 UN271 is the largest ever observed


More info:
Man-To Hui et al, Hubble Space Telescope Detection of the Nucleus of Comet C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), Letters from the Journal of Astronomy (2022) DOI: 10.3847 / 2041-8213 / ac626a

Presented by the University of California, Los Angeles

Quote: 4 billion year old monument Retrieved April 12, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-billion-year-old-relic-early from the Early Solar System (2022, April 12) on our way . solar.html

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