Astronomers identified Comet C/2017 K2 back in 2017, and now the extremely old comet is making its way into our inner solar system.
Researchers believe that Comet C/2017, or Comet K2, originally came from the Oort Cloud, and when it was originally found, it was approximately 1.5 billion miles away from the Sun between Saturn and Uranus. When Comet K2 was first discovered, astronomers believed it was 99 miles wide, but follow-up observations from the Hubble Space Telescope brought that number down to the agreed 11-mile-wide diameter.
It should be noted that while the diameter estimate was originally incorrect, the size of Comet K2 is still very large - being as wide as two Mount Everest's stacked on top of each other. Spaceweather.com writes that most comet nuclei are approximately 0.62 - 1.86 miles in diameter. Comet K2 harbors its own mysteries as most of the larger comets do, with researchers being perplexed at how the comet remains "active", which is a term researchers use to label comets that are producing a glow and the iconic tail.
Michael Jaeger, astrophotographer, said: "This is a 22-minute exposure with my 16-inch telescope. The comet was about 9th magnitude".
A comet is only active when rays from the Sun are energizing it, but given the location of Comet K2 and its proximity to the Sun, researchers are confused at how the large comet has remained so consistently active. Comet K2 is expected to make a safe fly-by past Earth, with its closest approach expected to be on July 14, when it will come within 167,320,453 miles of our planet. (1.8 AU)
For those wondering if you will be able to spot Comet K2 when it streaks across the night sky on July 14, Spaceweather reports that will, unfortunately, be too dim to see with the naked eye, but amateur-level telescopes will easily be able to spot it. On July 14, Comet K2 is expected to increase, but it can be seen now. Those interested in viewing Comet K2 should point their telescopes to the constellation Ophiuchus.
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