A comet larger than the state of Rhode Island is heading toward Earth at 22,000 miles an hour.
NASA’s Hubble telescope identified the comet back in 2010, but has only just determined the mass of its nucleus — a whopping 500 trillion tons and 85 miles wide, according to the BBC. It is the largest comet ever seen by astronomers, the outlet reported.
The C/2014 UN271 comet was named Bernardinelli-Bernstein after the scientists who discovered it from archival images in the Dark Energy Survey at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, NASA reported. The comet is expected to come within about a billion miles of our Sun some time in 2031, NASA continued, roughly the same distance as Saturn.
Hubble determined the size of the largest icy comet nucleus ever seen!
It’s larger than Rhode Island and heading this way at 22,000 miles per hour, but don’t worry – it won’t get closer than a billion miles from the Sun, slightly farther out than Saturn: https://t.co/l7Szt3adAx pic.twitter.com/1K6sqAJsU8
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) April 12, 2022
“This comet is literally the tip of the iceberg for many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in the more distant parts of the solar system,” University of California professor David Jewitt said, according to NASA. “We’ve always suspected this comet had to be big because it is so bright at such a large distance. Now we confirm it is.”
To put the size of the comet in perspective, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was estimated to be 7.5 miles in diameter and created a 1240-mile-wide scar on the face of our planet, according to LiveScience. The Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet is more than 11 times larger. (RELATED: Stephen Hawking Had One Clear Warning About Aliens. Scientists Are Ignoring It)
Comets have hit Earth since its formation. One may have struck in roughly 10,950 BC according to studies on engravings at the world’s oldest temple at Gȍbekli Tepe in southern Turkey.