What is C/2017 K2? Comet Twice the Size of Mount Everest is Heading to Earth

A giant comet, twice the size of Mount Everest, is heading towards Earth. Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) has entered the inner solar system. The comet will be closest to the Earth on July 14.

The size of the comet's tail, or coma, is also being debated by astronomers. The trail of dust and gases behind C/2017 K2 is estimated to be anywhere between 81,000 and 500,000 miles (130,000 and 800,000 kilometers) across, according to Interesting Engineering.

Representative image NASA

Astronomers First Discovered This Comet in 2017

In 2017, astronomers first discovered that the comet was heading toward the Earth. They discovered that it would be hurtling somewhere between Saturn and Neptune. PanSTARRS has been traveling from the Oort cloud to the inner solar system. Comet C/2017 K2, which is too bright, won't hit us and can be seen via a small telescope.

C/2017 K2 Is Not The Biggest Comet

Despite being giant in its size, C/2017 K2 is not the biggest comet astronomers have discovered so far.

According to initial data gained from observations via the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the nucleus of the comet was thought to be anywhere between 30 kilometers to 160 kilometers wide. But later observations made using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope paint a smaller picture, giving it a diameter of around 18 kilometers, according to The Jerusalem Post.

But still, the comet is very large in size as it's almost double the size of Mount Everest, the largest mountain on the Earth that has a height of nearly 8,000 meters.

C/2017 K2's coma, which is thought to have a diameter of 130,000 kilometers, which is almost the size of Jupiter, and a tail that could be 800,000 kilometers long.

At the time of its discovery in 2017, C/2017 K2 was thought to be the farthest-known active comet. Now, this isn't true anymore. In fact, C/2014 UN271 is now the proud bearer of this distinction, reported The Jerusalem Post.