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Astronomers have discovered a huge comet heading towards the sun

Astronomers have discovered a huge comet heading towards the sun

An illustration of a comet seen from Earth. | Dennis Balibos/Reuters

A massive, hitherto unknown stellar body is approaching Earth from the far reaches of the solar system, and astronomers estimate that it will reach its closest point when it orbits Saturn in 2031.

for RT

2014 UN271, a large celestial body discovered by the International Collaborative Dark Energy Survey (DES) project, is likely to be the largest celestial body ever discovered approaching the Sun.

The discovery, announced on June 19, was made possible by data provided by the Minor Planets Electronic Circulars (MPEC) program, from the NASA-funded research center. According to scientists spread on social media, the asteroid’s body, consisting of rocks and ice, has a diameter of between 100 and 370 kilometers.

According to data analyzed in recent years, between 2014 and 2018, the body went from 23 AU to 20 AU (one AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun). Pedro Bernardinelli, an astrophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), published a pixelated image of the object.

For his part, astronomer Sam Dean suggested that as 2014 UN271 approaches the Sun, it will begin to show its distinctive tail for the comet and that it will be “impressively bright” as it approaches its closest point.

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The Megameter orbit has been updated several times, which is very rare, particularly because of the distant extremes that take nearly 6000 years to complete. It is also believed that due to its size, it would be one of the largest objects in the Oort cloud, which has led some scientists to compare it to a dwarf planet.

After passing within 10.1 AU of Saturn’s orbit, 2014 UN271 will begin its return to the Oort cloud, at the outer edges of our solar system.