The Discovery of Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein and Gravity Resonance Spectroscopy By Scientists

Monika Sachan

Dark Energy is commonly assumed to be the driving force underlying the universe’s rapid expansion, and numerous ideas have been developed to describe its enigmatic nature. In six years of data from the Dark Energy Survey, a massive comet from the boundaries of the solar system was detected. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is thought to be 1000 times more gigantic than a conventional comet, making it perhaps the most gigantic comet ever detected. It has a very lengthy orbit, taking millions of years to travel inside from the distant Oort Cloud. It’s the farthest comet ever detected on its incoming course, giving scientists years to observe it grow as it gets closer to the Sun, though it’s not expected to be visible to the human eye.

Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein illustration. Credit: National Science Foundation

The comet is an icy relic flung out of the solar system by moving massive planets in the ancient past of the solar system and is predicted to be 100–200 kilometers wide, or roughly 10 times the diameter of typical comets. This comet is unlike anything which has been reported before, and its massive size estimate is determined by how much light it reflects.

Comets are frozen objects that expand their coma and tails as they reach the warmth of the Sun. The comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is currently approaching the Sun at a significantly closer distance. It was discovered by DES in 2014 at a distance of 29 au (4 billion kilometers or 2.5 billion miles, nearly the same as Neptune), and by June 2021, it was 20 au (3 billion kilometers or 1.8 billion miles, roughly the same as Uranus) from the Sun, shining at magnitude 20. The comet’s orbit is parallel to the plane of the solar system, and it will reach perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) in 2031 when it will be roughly 11 au distant (about the same as Saturn’s distance from the Sun), but it will not get any closer. Even at its brightest, skygazers will need a big amateurs telescope to observe the comet, regardless of its size.

The astronomy field will closely monitor Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, including using NOIRLab resources, in order to learn more about the composition and genesis of this huge relic from the creation of our own universe. Many more unidentified comets of this size are thought to be lurking in the Oort Cloud, well beyond Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, according to astronomers. The migration of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune earlier in their history is assumed to have distributed these huge comets to the furthest regions of the solar system.

hunting dark energy with gravity resonance spectroscopy

While Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is closely monitored by astrologists, a team led by Hartmut Abele at TU Wien in Austria has demonstrated a viable experimental method for examining Dark Energy’s enigmatic nature theory using ultra-cold neutrons in new research published in EPJ ST. These theories, on the other hand, predict that its impact on quantum scales will be negligible, and studies to date have not been precise enough to either confirm or disprove them. Their method, termed ‘Gravity Resonance Spectroscopy,’ could help scientists better comprehend one of cosmology’s biggest discoveries.

 A phenomenon known as ‘scalar symmetron fields’ was presented as a possible Dark Energy candidate. These fields, if they exist, will be significantly weaker than gravity, the weakest fundamental force currently acknowledged by physics. Scientists could indicate the existence of gravitational fields empirically by looking for exceedingly small irregularities in the behavior of quantum particles trapped in gravitational fields. Ultra-cold neutrons can take on a variety of discrete quantum states in a gravitational field, based on the intensity of the force.

The highly controlled mechanical oscillations of a near-perfect mirror are used in GRS to enable these neutrons to switch to higher-energy quantum states. Any deviations from the predicted values for the energy contrasts between these states could reveal Dark Energy’s presence.

Abele’s team created and showed a GRS experiment called ‘qBOUNCE,’ which was dependent on a technology known as Ramsey spectroscopy, in their paper. This entailed transitioning neutrons in an ultra-cold beam to higher-energy quantum states, dispersing aside any undesirable states, and collecting the remaining neutrons in a detector. The researchers were able to establish significantly more strict limitations on the parameters of scalar symmetron fields by taking exact measurements of the energy differences between different states. Their method now lays the path for even more precise Dark Energy searches in the future.




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