In July, a massive comet that is twice the size of Mount Everest will travel across Earth. This comet has entered our solar system’s inner region.
The Hubble Space Telescope discovered comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), often known as K2, in the far reaches of the solar system in 2017.
Although it was overtaken by a distant megacomet known as Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein last year, K2 was formerly thought to be the furthest active comet ever seen.
Astronomers predict that K2 will make its closest approach to Earth on July 14, when it will be 168 million miles (270 million kilometres) away.
Online public observatories like the Virtual Telescope Project’s live webcast allow people without access to a telescope to see the comet’s passage. It will start on July 14 at 22:15 GM.
K2 will continue on its course toward perihelion, or its closest approach to the sun, when it passes Earth in July.
For many years, scientists have been aware of comet C/2017 K2. However, there is disagreement over the size of the comet’s nucleus. Eddie Irrizarry and Kelly Kizer Whitt, NASA solar system ambassadors, estimate that the comet is between 11 and 100 miles (18 and 161 kilometres) broad.
The size of the comet’s tail, or coma, is also being debated by astronomers. The trail of dust and gases behind C/2017 K2 is estimated to be anywhere between 81,000 and 500,000 miles (130,000 and 800,000 kilometres) across.
Moreover, the comet has been getting brighter as it continued to make its way toward the inner solar system.
During its closest approach on July 14, the comet is expected to brighten to magnitude 8 or even 7, which, unfortunately, is still too dim for the unaided eye to see, according to EarthSky.org.
K2 will remain in telescope view throughout the summer before heading off for its closest approach to the sun, which will occur on December 19.