Astronomers have discovered a massive comet lurking on the outskirts of our Solar System using 6 years of data gathered from the Dark Energy Survey. Bernardinelli-Bernstein is currently the largest known and is estimated to be about 1000 times larger than a standard comet, and it has an extremely elongated orbit, traversing inwards from the distant Oort Cloud over millions of years. Read more for two videos and additional information.
Finding this comet required Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, of the University of Pennsylvania, employing 15–20 million CPU hours at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Fermilab. These sophisticated identification and tracking algorithms identified over 800 individual trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) from among the more than 16-billion individual sources detected in 80,000 exposures taken as part of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), with thirty-two of them belonging to one object in particular: C/2014 UN271.
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We have the privilege of having discovered perhaps the largest comet ever seen — or at least larger than any well-studied one — and caught it early enough for people to watch it evolve as it approaches and warms up. It has not visited the Solar System in more than 3 million years,” said Gary Bernstein.