On Wednesday and Thursday, the comet C/2017 K2 passed by Earth at its closest point, inspiring amateur astronomers to set up their backyard telescopes and take a look.
As the comet approaches the end of its roughly three million-year trek toward the sun from the outer part of the solar system known as the Oort Cloud, curiosity in it has increased recently.
It will go close to the sun in December and then turn back towards the cold outer limits of the solar system.
K2 has long been known to scientists. It was 1.5 billion miles from the sun and past Saturn’s orbit when NASA used the Hubble Space Telescope to take a picture of it in 2017. It grew to be the furthest-moving active comet ever witnessed.
Active comets are comets that start to release gas and dust after being heated by the sun. Comets get their distinctive tails and brightness from this. Indeed, the comet had an 80,000-mile-wide cloud, or coma, when Hubble first observed K2 back in 2017.
I've started collecting subs of Comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) as it approaches the lovely globular cluster Messier 10 in Ophiuchus.— Dave Eagle FRAS 🔭 Keep Looking Up. (@Dave_StarGeezer) July 14, 2022
It's at its closest to Earth of about 270m km today, and will be its closest to the cluster tomorrow. Close inspection shows an ion and dust tail. pic.twitter.com/x2BYa1WF8e
According to space news website Space.com, K2 came close to Earth on Thursday at a distance of about 1.8 astronomical units, which is about twice the distance between the sun and Earth.
While the comet was not visible to the unaided eye at this distance, it was close enough for amateur astronomers to take a look.
Using 10 two-minute exposures combined, astronomer Stephen Peters from the U.K. was able to capture the image shown below.
Another Briton, Dave Eagle, tweeted a picture of the comet visible to the upper right of the Messier 10 star cluster.
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