‘Mega comet’ mistaken for dwarf planet hurtling towards Earth thought to be biggest ever

A “mega comet” is making its way towards the sun and heading straight towards the inner solar system where Earth lies.

The Bernardinelli-Bernstein Comet is so large that experts originally thought it could be a dwarf planet which sparked debate between astronomers.

It has taken researchers seven years to identify it as a huge comet after it was first spotted back in 2014 by Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein from the University of Pennsylvania.

Everything we need to know about the comet, which is labelled as C/2014 UN271, has been revealed in a discovery paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.



Comets are mostly frozen ice

The 100 mile-wide comet, which is named after the two astronomers who discovered it, hasn’t approached the Sun in around 3.5 million years, reports IFL Science.

It was reported that when it last approached the sun it had only reached 18 astronomical units away, which is almost double the distance that it will reach this time around.

It’s likely to soon be the closest to the Sun it has ever been and is thought to be ten times the mass of Hale-Bopp, which was the largest comet discovered before.

And although you may be thinking, how can something that was mistaken as a dwarf planet be heading towards our solar system? You don’t need to worry.



An asteroid approaching Earth
An asteroid approaching Earth (stock image)

Even at its closest approach in 2031, the comet will be more distant than Saturn at around 11 astronomical units away – which is a real shame for astronomers who are eager to get a closer look at UN271.

Some astronomers are hoping to arrange a mission to travel to the mega comet – calculating the best time for a flyby as the year 2033, with a required launch by 2028.

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