Comets, the frozen remnants of the Solar System’s formation, have long piqued the interest of scientists around the world, as they may hold clues to the universe’s formation. Astronomers have discovered a larger-than-a-comet-sized object on the outskirts of the Solar System that is hurtling towards us.
The object, known as 2014 UN271, is expected to make a close pass by the Sun before entering Saturn’s orbit in 2031. The object was discovered in Dark Energy Survey data collected between 2014 and 2018. The object, which is estimated to be between 100 and 370 kilometers wide, is larger than a comet and is most likely a dwarf planet.
The mega comet was first observed in 2014 at a distance of about 29 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun — 1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The 2014 UN271 has traveled nearly 7 AU since then and is now nearly 22 AU away from the Sun. This distance brings it closer to us than Neptune.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the observation is the massive orbit of this mega comet. It spans approximately 6,12,190 years between the inner solar system and the Oort cloud on the boundary of interstellar space. The region beyond the heliosphere where the Sun’s influence wane and solar winds slow is known as interstellar space.