Posted BY: Ed Browne

A huge comet that is entering the final stages of a multi-million year journey towards the sun has entered the inner part of our solar system and is due to make its closest pass to Earth in July.

Scientists have known about comet C/2017 K2 for several years—the Hubble telescope observed it back in 2017 when it was the farthest active inbound comet ever seen.

At that time the icy space ball was a huge 1.5 billion miles away from our star—even further away than Saturn. Even at that distance, the comet, estimated to be roughly 12 miles across or less, was heating up and had developed an 80,000 mile-wide cloud of dust and gas around it.

Scientists think C/2017 K2 came from the Oort Cloud—a colossal sphere of icy objects that orbit our sun far out past even the most distant planets in our solar system.

The comet has traveled a vast distance, passing the orbits of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter before entering the asteroid belt that separates the inner solar system from the outer.

Now it is in our neck of the woods having entered the inner solar system according to SpaceWeather.com. It’s due to make its closest pass to Earth on July 14, though the comet will still be further away from us than Mars.

Comets are balls of dust, ice, and gas that are essentially leftovers from the early solar system. Their orbits occasionally take them close to the sun, causing them to heat up and shine.

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