A strange object bigger than a comet has been observed by astronomers on the outskirts of the Solar System. The object which is described as a ‘mega comet’ is estimated to be between 100 and 370 kilometres wide. Its size puts it closer to the small dwarf planet category. The object has recently been discovered by the astronomers through the findings of the Dark Energy Survey comprising the astronomical data between the years 2014 and 2018, reports Express UK.
The mega-comet dubbed as 2014 UN271, is likely to make a close pass by the Sun and is estimated to barge into Saturn’s orbit in 2031. Astronomers believe that before reaching the planet Saturn, the object will develop the typical characteristics of a comet. It will form a tail, and the coma similar to any other comet as the material on its surface will vaporise due to Sun’s heat and radiation as it will get closer to the star.
First observed in 2014, the enormous comet was about 29 Astronomical Units away from Sun (1 AU is equivalent to the distance between Earth and Sun). Since then it has travelled around 7 AU. After covering the distance of 1 AU every year, now, the object is about 22 astronomical units (AU) away from the Sun.
As per the estimates, the comet will reach as close as 10.9 AU of the Sun by 2031. Therefore, at its closest, it is expected to approach Saturn’s orbit before taking a u-turn and returning to the outer edges of the solar system.
What makes this strange object unique is its long orbit. After analysis, astronomers have found that one end of its orbit is close to the Sun, while the other end stretches all the way up to the Oort Cloud—the circumstellar disk of dust and gas located in the interstellar space. The region is considered to be the farthest in the solar system beyond the Sun’s influence where solar winds slow down. Due to such a long distance between the two end-points, the object takes a whopping 6,12,190 years to complete one full orbit.