The largest comet ever spotted is hurtling through space towards Earth at 22,000 miles an hour.
The comet has a mass of about 500 trillion tons and its icy nucleus measures about 80 miles across, which is 50 times bigger than the centres of most other known comets.
But we can rest easy for now, because the boffins tracking it at Nasa believe it won’t get any closer than a billion miles from the Sun, reports the Independent.
The comet – which has been labelled “C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein)” – was first spotted more than a decade ago, in November 2010. At that point, it was three billion miles from the Sun, travelling from the edge of the solar system towards its centre.
Its mass is a staggering 100,000 times larger than the comets that are typically found closer to the Sun.
Scientists using telescopes on Earth and in space have been monitoring it ever since. They believe its journey will come to an end in 2031 at a point further away from us than Saturn is.
They already knew it was a massive comet, but the latest estimates of its gigantic size are based on photos taken this year by the Hubble Space Telescope.
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It’s quite a skill making the measurements as there is a lot of dust surrounding the comet that makes it tricky to see exactly where the edge of the space object is.
But by focusing on the bright dot at the centre of the comet and then using computer models, space watchers were able to make their remarkable calculations.
The comet is billions of years old and is a relic from the early days of our solar system. It came from the Oort Cloud and has been heading back towards our Sun for at least a million years.
The scientists’ latest findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.