A giant comet, likely the largest comet discovered in modern times, is on its way toward the sun.
Scientists caught sight of the comet early, giving researchers years to watch it evolve and streak through the Solar System. It is not expected to pass by Earth until 2031. However, even at its closest pass by, scientists believe a large telescope will be needed to see it.
"We have the privilege of having discovered perhaps the largest comet ever seen — or at least larger than any well-studied one — and caught it early enough for people to watch it evolve as it approaches and warms up,” Gary Bernstein, one of the co-discoverers, said in a statement.
It was discovered by two astronomers looking at nearly six years of data from the Dark Energy Survey. It was named Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, after the two astronomers who identified it.
Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein measures about 100 to 200 kilometers across, roughly ten times the diameter of most comets. Comets are icy bodies that typically evaporate as they approach the sun, creating a tail.
The Dark Energy Survey mapped 300 million galaxies across a 5,000-square-degree area of the night sky, according to the National Science Foundation.
Scientists believe the comet originated in the Oort Cloud of objects, which was “ejected during the early history of the Solar System,” according to the NSF.
They believe the Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein has not visited our Solar System in more than 3 million years.