Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein (C/2014 UN271) will not come close to the Sun for another 10 years, but this object is already showing signs of life.
Astronomers at the Las Cambres observatory took an image of C/2014 UN271 on the evening of June 22, 2021, confirming that the object is an active comet. The approaching Oort cloud object, originally designated the 2014 minor planet UN271, has now been renamed Bernardinelli-Bernstein’s C / 2014 UN271 comet. The facility was named after its two discoverers, Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, both of whom worked on the Dark Energy Survey.
The comet was discovered in Dark Energy Survey data collected by the Blanco Telescope in Chile from 2013 to 2019. Confirmation of the comet’s active status came just three days after its initial discovery on June 19.
With an estimated size of 100 to 370 km in length, the object could potentially become one of the largest comets ever discovered. The size of the nucleus of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein still needs to be clarified, so it is too early to make any definitive statements on this matter. However, if confirmed, it could be three times the size of the current record holder, Comet Hale-Bopp.