A giant comet will make a safe flyby of Earth in a few days.
Comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), K2 for short, is one of the most distant active comets ever observed. This small world will whiz by our planet on July 13 at a relatively large distance.
The official time of closest approach will be at 23:09. EDT (0309 GMT, July 14), when the comet will be 1.8 AU from our planet’s center, according to NASA’s data Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (An astronomical unit is an average distance between the Sun and the Earth: about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers.)
Even though the comet will be a bit far away and faint, it’s still an exciting time for astronomers. It was spotted as early as 2017 in the outer solar system and is finally getting close enough to Earth for amateurs to consider seeing it in telescopes or binoculars. However, how bright K2 will get is a big unknown.
Some outlets, such as EarthSky, have predicted that the comet could eventually be as bright as magnitude seven and that the comet may brighten even after a close approach to our planet as K2 approaches the Sun.
This is still too faint to see with the naked eye, as the best most people can do is see 6th magnitude stars in dark sky conditions.
But the 7th magnitude is well within reach for people with binoculars or binoculars. If a comet is visible, it is likely to appear relatively diffuse as it releases gases due to the heat and pressure of the Sun acting on its surface.
Professional observatories will be interested to learn about the size of the nucleus, which is being discussed. Hubble Space Telescope observations suggested it could be 11 miles (18 km) at most, while work with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) indicates a range between 18 and 100 miles (30 to 160 km). EarthSky.
If you’re looking for binoculars or binoculars to see a comet in the night sky, check out our guide to the best binoculars deals and the best binoculars deals. If you need photography gear, consider our guides to the best astrophotography cameras and best astrophotography lenses to ensure you’re ready for your next comet sighting.