First discovered by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein in 2010, the comet has more recently gained renewed attenton thanks to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The data has revealed that its nucleus weighs 500 trillion tonnes and measures 85 miles in width – which is larger than Rhode Island – making this the largest comet known to science.
While its current trajectory has it careening towards us at 22,000mph, there’s no need to panic – even at its closest approach in 2031 it will not stray nearer than one billion miles from the Sun.
“We’ve always suspected this comet had to be big because it is so bright at such a large distance,” said planetary scientist David Jewitt from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
“Now we confirm it is.”
The comet follows a long, elliptical path around the solar system with even a single orbit taking three million years to complete.
At its furthest distance, it can travel up to half a light-year away from the Sun.