|Date: Wednesday, 13-April-2022, 4:04 PM | Message # 1
|4 billion-year-old relic from early solar system heading our way
by University of California, Los Angeles
An enormous comet—approximately 80 miles across, more than twice the width of Rhode Island—is heading our way at 22,000 miles per hour from the edge of the solar system. Fortunately, it will never get closer than 1 billion miles from the sun, which is slightly farther from Earth than Saturn; that will be in 2031.
Comets, among the oldest objects in the solar system, are icy bodies that were unceremoniously tossed out of the solar system in a gravitational pinball game among the massive outer planets, said David Jewitt. The UCLA professor of planetary science and astronomy co-authored a new study of the comet in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The evicted comets took up residence in the Oort cloud, a vast reservoir of far-flung comets encircling the solar system out to many billions of miles into deep space, he said.
A typical comet's spectacular multimillion-mile-long tail, which makes it look like a skyrocket, belies the fact that the source at the heart of the fireworks is a solid nucleus of ice mixed with dust—essentially a dirty snowball. This huge one, called Comet C/2014 UN271 and discovered by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, could be as large as 85 miles across.
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