Save the date. In roughly 10 years, a once in a lifetime (a very long lifetime) event will take place in the sky above us. One of the largest comets ever seen will pass through our solar system.
Astronomers first discovered the Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet earlier this year.
Its length is at least 62 miles across and could potentially be larger, making it bigger than a typical comet. To put it into perspective, the average comet is only about 6 miles wide.
Because of its large size, scientists had mistaken the comet for a dwarf planet when it was first discovered in June of this year.
It is currently flying through the Oort cloud, an icy layer in space about 29 astronomical units (AU) away. One AU equals the distance from the sun to the earth.
It’ll take a while for it to come anywhere near us and will be closest to earth in 2031, reaching a distance of about 11 AU away from the sun.
Its orbit is so long that the last time it passed earth, humans didn’t exist. The last time it came near our sun was 3.5 million years ago, and it was still 18 AU away from the sun.
The comet shouldn’t impact us at all when it passes through, but with a decent backyard telescope, you’ll get to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.
For stargazers interested in events happening this year, check out our celestial calendar.