Biggest comet from outer solar system ever seen is 137 kilometres wide

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Astronomers have calculated the size of a ‘mega comet’ originating in the Oort Cloud, a cluster of icy bodies that surrounds our solar system

Space 4 February 2022

By Jonathan O’Callaghan

This illustration shows the distant Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein as it might look in the outer Solar System. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is estimated to be about 1000 times more massive than a typical comet, making it arguably the largest comet discovered in modern times. It has an extremely elongated orbit, journeying inward from the distant Oort Cloud over millions of years. It is the most distant comet to be discovered on its incoming path.

Illustration of the comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein as it might look in the outer solar system

NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva

Astronomers have confirmed that a “mega comet” flying towards the sun is the biggest comet from the outer solar system ever found.

In June 2021, astronomers announced the discovery of comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) beyond the orbit of Uranus. Its brightness suggested it was a vast object originating from a cloud of icy bodies that surrounds our solar system, the Oort Cloud. It was estimated to be between 100 and 370 kilometres across, making it …

Article amended on 4 February 2022

We amended this article to correctly refer to the reflectivity of the comet and state the diameter of 95P/Chiron.

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