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Science : Comet twice the size of Mount Everest

About five years ago, the Hubble Telescope spotted a giant comet, at that time it was moving towards the Sun from between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. Now it is coming near Earth, in a few weeks it will pass near the earth. Comet C2017/K2 will be closest to us on July 14.

But it will still be farther from us than the average distance between Earth and Mars. This comet can also be seen with the help of a small telescope and if the skies are clear you might get a chance to see this comet with naked eyes.

Uncertainty remains at this point as to how large the comet's nucleus is, according to NASA Solar System ambassadors Eddie Irizzari and Kelly Keizer Whit in EarthSky, with various observations ranging between 11 and 100 miles (18 and 161 kilometers) suggest.

This means that C/2017 is one of the largest comets ever discovered. The size of the comet's tail, or coma, is equally huge and quite indistinct.

Preliminary observations suggest that a trail of dust and gases behind this comet may be anywhere between 81,000 and 500,000 miles (130,000 and 800,000 km).

So, somewhere between the width of one and six Jupiters - this is an utterly epic trail.

To see the comet for yourself, you can look to public online observatories like the Virtual Telescope Project that are sure to host watch parties at some point.

You can even get your hands on a telescope (there are sites on the web that show how to build one) and start practising observing objects now using an app like Stellarium, which will be able to point your lens in the right direction as the comet gets closer.

After passing us in July, C/2017 K2 will continue toward perihelion, the closest path to the Sun, before heading back into deep space.

As comets get closer to the Sun, they behave unexpectedly. It may suddenly become more active and brighter, or it may detach and even disappear entirely.

In any case, this visit will be the only chance to get acquainted with this comet. Its orbit is so long that it will not return for a few million years. Maybe this is something to explore with the children.

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