Astronomers see a burst of activity from a giant comet from the Oort cloud

Ground-based telescopes recorded an outburst of activity from the giant comet C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) from the Oort cloud, due to which its brightness increased sharply. The comet is expected to be as close to the Sun as possible in nine years. The message was published on Astronomer’s Telegram website.

Comet C / 2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) was discovered in June this year during the analysis of archived images of the DES (Dark Energy Survey) sky survey. It was previously thought to be a dwarf planet, but then a coma and signs of activity were found in the body, after which it was reclassified into a comet. The diameter of its core is estimated at more than 100 kilometers, which is a record value among the investigated comets.

The comet’s orbit is strongly tilted and elongated, with its farthest point from the Sun in the inner part of the Oort cloud. This makes this body a unique object for research that can tell about the composition of bodies from the outermost parts of our planetary system. In early 2031 C / 2014, UN271 is expected to come closest to the Sun, between the orbits of Uranus and Saturn.

A team of astronomers led by Michael Kelley of the University of Maryland reported an apparent outburst of C / 2014 UN271 activity recorded by 1-meter telescopes on the Las Cumbres terrestrial network from September 9 to 10, 2021. During this time, its brightness increased from 19.57 to 18.92 magnitude. Additional observations made on September 11 confirmed the increase in brightness of the comet, at that time its brightness was 19.02 magnitude. At the moment, the comet is located at a distance of 19.398 astronomical units from the Earth.

To date, the most distant known body in the solar system is 2018 AG37. A year on it lasts about 10 earthly centuries, and it itself can be an icy dwarf planet.

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