One of the largest comets ever discovered is making its nearest pass to the Earth in our lifetime.
The C/2017 K2 Panstarrs will reach its nearest distance to our planet, around 1.8 times greater than the distance between the Earth and the sun, on July 14.
The K2 comet was discovered in 2017 by the Hubble Space Telescope. When found, it was the most distant inbound comet ever spotted, traveling between the orbital distances of Uranus and Saturn. K2 was 1.5 billion miles from the Earth when it was first observed.
The comet’s nucleus is estimated at more than 11 miles, a size ten times larger than most comets. The comet’s atmosphere (or coma) is considered 81,000 miles in diameter.
NASA describes the comet as being on “its maiden voyage to the inner Solar System from the dim and distant Oort cloud.” The Oort cloud is the most distant region of our solar system.
Those wishing to spot K2 will find it within the constellation of Ophiuchus. The comet will remain in this area until approximately the end of July, when it will move near the Scorpio constellation.
The comet should be visible with a basic telescope or even a pair of binoculars, according to astronomers studying K2. The precise time the comet will be nearest the Earth is at 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
According to AccuWeather, the comet will appear as a “fuzzy green star.”
Dust off your telescope and point it toward the southern sky this week to see Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS): https://t.co/2HqMVh3g7p
— AccuWeather Astronomy (@AccuAstronomy) July 13, 2022
The Comet Observation Database (COBS) offers precise coordinates for comet seekers in need of detailed data to follow the comet’s passing.
— Dave Dickinson (@Astroguyz) July 14, 2022
Footage from the Sormano2 Observatory in Italy offers a glimpse of how the K2 will look based on its observations of the comet last week.
Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) last night. Sormano2 Observatory – Bellagio-Via Lattea (G.Ventre) pic.twitter.com/QMuUqq1Qwm
— PS (@Piero_Sicoli) July 8, 2022
The comet will reach its nearest point to the sun in December before moving farther away from the Earth’s solar system.
Until 2021, the K2 was the largest spotted comet. The Hubble Space Telescope observed a mega-comet last year that is so large that it’s classified as a minor planet.
The comet’s approach also follows the recent news of NASA’s release of “the deepest, sharpest infrared” photograph of the universe in history late on Monday afternoon, which was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest space telescope ever built.
👀 Sneak a peek at the deepest & sharpest infrared image of the early universe ever taken — all in a day’s work for the Webb telescope. (Literally, capturing it took less than a day!) This is Webb’s first image released as we begin to #UnfoldTheUniverse: https://t.co/tlougFWg8B pic.twitter.com/Y7ebmQwT7j
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) July 11, 2022
“Most stars appear blue, and are sometimes as large as more distant galaxies that appear next to them,” NASA said.
“A very bright star is just above and left of center. It has eight bright blue, long diffraction spikes. Between 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock in its spikes are several very bright galaxies. A group of three are in the middle, and two are closer to 4 o’clock. These galaxies are part of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and they are warping the appearances of galaxies seen around them. Long orange arcs appear at left and right toward the center,” it added.
On Tuesday, the first five images were released by NASA to the public.