Giant Comet Will Make Its Closest Approach to Earth & You Might Be Able To See C/2017 K2


Comet 1

How to See the Giant Comet Flying by Earth Soon
Comet C/2017 K2 could be among the largest cosmic snowballs known.

Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) is making its way toward the inner solar system. Astronomers first spotted the approaching comet in 2017 using the Pan-STARRS survey instrument in Hawaii. At the time, they said it was the farthest active inbound comet they’d yet seen.

It was between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus when they first saw it, but it’s heading toward its closest approach to Earth on July 14, 2022. The comet will be closest to the sun several months later, on December 19, 2022. If you have a small telescope, you should be able to spot the comet throughout the summer.

Comets are mostly rock and ice. They become active when warmed by the sun. However, this comet was already active in 2017. The Hubble Space Telescope took an image of the comet looking like a fuzzy snowball while it was still in the outer solar system. The comet appears to have a large nucleus, and it shows a huge cometary atmosphere or coma.

Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS)

If the name Comet PanSTARRS rings a bell, that’s because there are many of them. Pan-STARRS is a sky survey that is particularly good at spotting new asteroids, comets, supernovae and the like. This is Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS). At its discovery, K2 was 1.49 billion miles (2.4 billion km) from the sun, 16 times farther away than the Earth is from the sun.

How to Watch the Comet?

CNET noted that you can see the comet for yourself by visiting public online observatories such as the Virtual Telescope Project, which will almost certainly organize watch parties at some point. You can even acquire a telescope and start practicing seeing objects right now with an app like Stellarium, which will also position your lenses in the appropriate direction when the comet approaches. Whatever happens, this will most likely be our only opportunity to learn about this comet. Its orbit is so long that it will not return for millions of years.


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