There’s a huge comet coming and it will be visible for decades

An absolutely huge new comet called Bernardinelli-Bernstein, which is 93 miles wide, is currently making its way Sunward and will reach its closest point (beyond the orbit of Saturn) about a decade from now:

Over the next decade, Bernardinelli-Bernstein will continue to get brighter as it approaches the inner solar system, dive-bombing the plane of the planets’ orbits from below. It will make its closest approach on January 21, 2031, when the comet is expected to come within about a billion miles of the sun, slightly farther away than Saturn’s average distance. It will then begin its long retreat back into the solar system’s outer realms, remaining visible into at least the 2040s, if not decades longer.

One of the largest comets ever seen is headed our way, National Geographic

At that distance you’ll still need a telescope to see it, but for a long-period comet like this that’s a very close approach that will give astronomers a great opportunity to study it. Only a few long-period comets have been found before.

To put in perspective how far it’s come to visit us, Bernardinelli-Bernstein’s furthest distance is about 40,400 astronomical units. That’s 0.6 light years, or one seventh of the distance to the closest star. The comet last passed through our neighbourhood 3.5 million years ago, long before human beings even existed (we’ve been here for a mere 200,000 years). Chances are we’re the only humans who will ever see this comet, so take the chance if you can!

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