A comet, larger than the dinosaur-killer asteroid, is approaching Earth, says NASA; Will it hit us?
It's not often when we get a visit from celestial bodies that are larger than a couple of kilometers. We have already seen the year's largest asteroid, 1989 JA, flying past the Earth in May and it was just 1.8 kilometers wide. Even going back millions of years, one of the largest recorded asteroids to come close to the planet (and in this instance, strike it as well) was the dinosaur-killing asteroid Chicxulub, which is estimated to be between 10-15 kilometers. So, it was no surprise when NASA first found out that a comet which can be between 30 to 160 kilometers wide was approaching the Earth, the reaction was both of awe and shock. So, when is this comet due for a flyby across our planet and what risk does it pose to us? Read on to find out.
Spotted first in 2017, Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) is coming all the way from the Oort cloud to visit the Earth and the Sun. The comet was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) observatory and thus its name. However, it is also known as the K2 comet in short. Traveling from the outer edges of the solar system, this comet is scheduled to arrive the closest to the Earth on July 14. After that, it will continue its journey towards the Sun and will get the closest to it on December 19, 2022, reports Space.com.
Comet, larger than the dinosaur killing asteroid, is hurtling towards the Earth
When it comes to the K2 comet, a lot of things about it are rough estimates, including its size, due to the large distance between us and the comet. Initial observations by the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) suggested that the nucleus of the comet could be between 30 to 160 kilometers wide. However, the observations from NASA Hubble Space Telescope suggest that it might be around 18 kilometers wide. This will still be much larger than the asteroid that wiped the Earth. So, what are the chances of an asteroid strike? Realistically, not very high.
The comet is expected to pass by the Earth at a distance of 270 million kilometers away from the Earth as per NASA. For reference, it is a slightly larger distance than between Earth and Mars. However, it is expected that despite being so far away, people on Earth might be able to see it through unaided eyes as long as the light pollution is dim. According to a report by EarthSky, the K2 comet will brighten to the magnitude of 8 to 7, which should just about make it as a small twinkle to the unaided eye. However, if you want to properly view this spectacle, you'd need a telescope.