Comets are orbs of dust, ice, and gas that are practically the leftovers from the early solar system. Their orbits sometimes carry them close to the sun, resulting in their heating up and shining.
An enormous comet reaching the final stages of a multi-million-year journey towards the sun has infiltrated the inner part of our solar system. It is about to make its nearest pass to Earth in July.
Scientists have learned about the comet C/2017 K2 for several years. The Hubble telescope identified it in 2017 when it was the most distant yet active inbound comet ever seen.
At that time, the icy space ball was roughly 1.5 billion miles away from our star. It was even further away than Saturn. Still, at that distance, the comet, estimated to be approximately 12 miles across or less, was heating up and had acquired an 80,000-mile-wide mist of dust and gas surrounding it.
Scientists believe that C/2017 K2 came from the Oort Cloud. It is a colossal sphere of icy objects that circle our sun far out past even the most outlying planets in our solar system.
The comet has traveled a considerable distance, passing the orbits of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter before arriving at the asteroid belt that segregates the inner solar system from the outer.
“The beauty of comets such as this Oort Cloud one is that they carry the chemical fingerprints of the cloud out of which our solar system formed,” Professor Brad Gibson, director of the E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Hull in the U.K., told Newsweek.