As The 'Incredible Hulk' Comet Makes Its Closest Approach To Earth Today, Pray It Does Not Smash Us

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 - 10:50AM
Astronomy
Space Imagery
Tuesday, 07 August 2018 - 10:50AM
As The 'Incredible Hulk' Comet Makes Its Closest Approach To Earth Today, Pray It Does Not Smash Us
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Image Credit: NASA, color modified by OP
When you think of comets – those glorious snowballs blazing through the night sky – you probably picture a fiery, star-white ball that leaves a temporary light trail behind. According to experts, however, comets can be different colors based on their chemistry, and a green-tinted one is scheduled to make an uncomfortably close pass by Earth today.



The comet-officially named C/2017 S3 but nicknamed Incredible Hulk after the Marvel character-was discovered in late 2017 by researchers using the PanSTARRS telescopes in Hawaii. Quoting astrophysicist Brian Koberlein, LiveScience explains that the green hue is the result of a chemical reaction. Molecules of cyanide and carbon are warmed by the sun and ionize. The separation of electrons and protons is what creates the Hulk-like glow that is sometimes visible with binoculars when these comets get close enough. Since its discovery, C/2017 S3 has had two surface eruptions of unknown (but not uncommon) causes: one on June 30 and the second just two weeks later. The second burst saw the release of a cloud of gas nearly twice as big as Jupiter, which made spotting it a lot easier.

During its closest approach today, the Incredible Hulk comet will be a mere 70 million miles away from Earth as it hurtles toward the sun. Visibility is an issue right now because of the comet's proximity to the sun, but LiveScience reports that skywatchers may be able to see it again in late August after it makes the trip around our brightly shining star.
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