Discovery image of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein (unannotated)

This image from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) is composed of some of the discovery exposures showing Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein collected by the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. These images show the comet in October 2017, when it was 25 au away, 83% of the distance to Neptune.

Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein (precisely in the center) is estimated to be about 1000 times more massive than a typical comet, making it arguably the largest comet discovered in modern times. It has an extremely elongated orbit, journeying inward from the distant Oort Cloud over millions of years. It is the most distant comet to be discovered on its incoming path.

DECam was designed specifically for the DES and operated by the DOE and NSF between 2013 and 2019. DECam was funded by the DOE and was built and tested at DOE's Fermilab. DES was tasked with mapping 300 million galaxies across a 5000-square-degree area of the night sky, but during its six years of observations it also observed many comets and trans-Neptunian objects passing through the surveyed field.

The analysis of data from the Dark Energy Survey is supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the DECam science archive is curated by the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC) at NSF’s NOIRLab. CTIO and CSDC are Programs of NOIRLab.


Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/P. Bernardinelli & G. Bernstein (UPenn)/DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys

Acknowledgments: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) & J. Miller (NSF’s NOIRLab)

About the Image

Release date:June 25, 2021, 1 p.m.
Related releases:noirlab2119
Size:1328 x 1328 px

About the Object

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