the Brazilian scientist Pedro Bernardinelli, who is part of the multinational research group Dark energy Survey (DES), coordinated a study that enabled the discovery of 461 new objects in the Solar system, which can help in understanding the formation and evolution of our system.

Bernardinelli holds a Ph.D. in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and led the research whose observations took 6 years, starting in 2013 and ending in 2019.

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To discover these objects, they had to reprocess all images captured and registered in the DES of the same region over several epochs, in order to identify the orbit of these new objects. There are thousands and thousands of gigabytes, and the result of this work has begun to bear fruit recently.

comet finder

In this process, Pedro also identified the largest comet ever seen, known as: C/2014 UN271, or Bernardinelli-Bernstein in honor of him and his advisor, who also participated in the discovery along with the other members of the DES collaboration.

Trajectory of the comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein

It is noteworthy that the DES research program investigates the role of dark energy, which acts in the accelerated expansion of our universe. The researchers used the 4-meter Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, with the initial objective of measuring the rate of cosmic expansion.

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beyond Neptune

However, when observing the sky, it also allowed new discoveries, such as those of trans-Neptunian objects, that is, small icy bodies that orbit the Sun and are beyond the planet Neptune. With this new discovery, the number of known trans-Neptunian objects rises to nearly 4!

But why studying these objects can help us understand our Solar System?

There are suspicions that transneptunian objects are remnants of the formation of our system, so we can understand the origin of their creation. In addition, they function as gravity flags in the solar system and can indicate the existence of a ninth planet in the solar system, but that's another story...

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