Query : 2022A&A...659L...1L

2022A&A...659L...1L - Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 659, L1-1 (2022/3-1)

Size and albedo of the largest detected Oort-cloud object: Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein).


Abstract (from CDS):

Context. The recently announced Oort-cloud comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is remarkable in at least three respects: (i) it was discovered inbound as far as ∼29 au from the Sun (with prediscovery images up to ∼34 au); (ii) it already showed cometary activity at almost 24 au; and (iii) its nuclear magnitude (Hr ∼ 8.0) indicates an exceptionally large object. Detection of gases is expected in the upcoming years as the comet heads toward a perihelion of ∼11 au in 2031. Aims. The goal is to determine the object's diameter and albedo from thermal measurements. Methods. We used ALMA in extended configuration (resolution ∼0.064'') to measure the 1287 µm (233 GHz) continuum flux of the comet. Observations were performed on August 8, 2021, at a 20.0 au distance from the Sun. The high spatial resolution was chosen in order to filter out any dust contribution. We also used a recently published Afρ value to estimate the dust production rate and the expected dust thermal signal for various assumptions on particle size distribution. Results. We detected the thermal emission of the object at ∼10σ, with a flux of 0.128 ± 0.012 mJy. Based on observational constraints and our theoretical estimates of the dust contribution, the entirety of the measured flux can be attributed to the nucleus. From NEATM modeling combined with the Hr magnitude, we determine a surface-equivalent diameter of 137 ± 17 km and a red geometric albedo of 5.3 ± 1.2%. This confirms that C/2014 UN271 is by far the largest Oort-cloud object ever found (almost twice as large as comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp) and, except for the Centaur 95P/Chiron, which shows outburst-like activity, the largest known comet in the Solar System. On the other hand, the C/2014 UN271 albedo is typical of comets, adding credence to a "universal" comet nucleus albedo. Conclusions. With its distant perihelion and uniquely large size, C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is the prominent archetype of distant comets whose activity is driven by hypervolatiles. Monitoring of dust and gas emission as the comet approaches and passes perihelion will permit its activity time pattern to be studied and compared to the distant (outbound) activity of Hale-Bopp. Post-perihelion thermal measurements will permit the study of possible albedo changes, such as a surface brightening compared to pre-perihelion, as was observed for Hale-Bopp.

Abstract Copyright: © E. Lellouch et al. 2022

Journal keyword(s): comets: individual : C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein)

Simbad objects: 3

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Number of rows : 3
N Identifier Otype ICRS (J2000)
ICRS (J2000)
Mag U Mag B Mag V Mag R Mag I Sp type #ref
1850 - 2023
1 QSO B0252-549 QSO 02 53 29.1803201880 -54 41 51.437517216   17.65 19.3 16.79   ~ 119 1
2 NAME Pic A Sy1 05 19 49.7229323856 -45 46 43.852662732   15.73 15.77 14.85   ~ 641 1
3 ICRF J225805.9-275821 Sy1 22 58 05.96287687 -27 58 21.2567572   17.34 16.77 17.20   ~ 345 1

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