“Incredible Hulk” is the nickname that’s been given to a gigantic, bright green comet streaking through the sky. The comet’s formal name is the much harder-to-remember PANSTARSS C/2017 S3. On August 7, the Incredible Hulk will move closer to Earth than it’s been since scientists first spotted it. This will also be the Incredible Hulk’s first trip into the “inner” solar system.
The Hulk got its name from its green color, and from its incredible size. On July 7, the comet “exploded” in brightness, becoming bright enough to see from Earth with binoculars. Its atmosphere — green, of course — is now twice the size of Jupiter.
Russian news reports have been warning that the Incredible Hulk could spread damage and disaster as it enters the solar system. But most scientists agree that the Hulk is benign and poses no threat whatsoever to life on earth.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Incredible Hulk Has Grown Bright Enough To See With Just An Ordinary Set of Binoculars. Soon It Should Be Visible to the Naked Eye
The Hulk was first spotted back in 2017. But until July, the comet was so faint, and so far away from us, that it could only really be seen through a powerful telescope. Then, in early July, the comet suddenly “exploded” in brightness, growing a massive atmosphere which made it much easier to spot from here on Earth. An amateur astronomer named Michael Jäger first noticed the comet’s new intensity on July 2.
At this point, the gas cloud around the comet is 160,000 miles wide — about twice the size of Jupiter. And as the Hulk passes closer and closer to the sun, its gases are boiling and exploding — making the comet even brighter, bigger, and easier to spot. Soon, it should be visible to the naked eye.
Astronomers say the Hulk should be visible now, in the early part of August. Around mid-August, the comet will pass so close to the sun that it will be almost impossible to see. But towards the end of the month, Hulk should be visible once again. Scientists say that the blast of radiation from the sun could cause more explosions, making the comet even brighter in the night sky.
One Russian Scientist Is Warning The Hulk Could Cause “Electromagnetic Disturbances” on Earth
Russian media has been reporting that a lone Russian scientist, named Yevgeniy Dmitriyev, has been issuing dire warnings about the Incredible Hulk. According to Sputnik News, Dmitriyev — a specialist in comets and meteorites — says that the comet’s giant cloud of space dust could cause “electromagnetic disturbances” to the Earth’s atmosphere. This, according to Dmitriyev, could cause massive, and hugely destructive, lightning storms here on Earth.
“When the Earth passes through the gas-dust environment of a bright comet, a giant lightning may occur which generates a powerful cometary electromagnetic pulse that can be ruinous for civilization,” Dmitriyev said.
It’s absolutely true that comets trail space dust and gases. Scientists often compare comets to “dirty snowballs” because they are, essentially, giant balls of ice and dust with “tails” made of more gas and dust particles trailing behind them.
But Dmitriyev seems to be the only scientist at all concerned about the Incredible Hulk causing destruction here on Earth. The rest of the scientific community believes that it poses no danger whatsoever.
The Best Days To See The Comet Are August 7 and 8 — And Then Again At The End of the Month
The Hulk is expected to be at its closest point to Earth on August 7. After that the comet will move closer and closer to the sun, until it slowly begins to turn away from the sun on August 15.
For people living in the northern hemisphere, it will be easiest to spot Hulk at the beginning of the month. News reports are a bit divided about which days are best. Some say August 4 and 5 were your best bets; others say August 7 and 8 are the best times to spot the comet. All the reports agree that as Hulk moves closer and closer to the sun, it will be virtually impossible to see, since the sun’s brightness will obscure it.
But as the Hulk turns away from the sun, it will get easier to see — and it may even get brighter than it is now, if the sun sets off an explosive reaction in the comet’s gassy tail. So keep your eyes on the sky in the later part of the month too, if you want to spot the green comet.
The Hulk Will Be About 70 million miles From Earth At Its Closest Approach
The comet will be about 70 million miles, or 112 million km, from Earth at its closest approach. That “closest approach” comes on August 7. After that, Hulk will move towards the sun. The comet should be at its closest point to the sun — a state known as “perihelion” — on August 15, when it will be two “astronomical units” from the sun. (An “astronomical unit” is about 93 million miles, or the mean distance between the Earth and the sun.)
After perihelion, it will turn away and head to the distant reaches of the universe. But astronomers say that if you want to see the Hulk, your best bet is to watch for it either in the early part of the month — say, by August 8th — or in the later part, once it’s moved away from the sun and can’t be obscured by the sun’s brightness any more.
Scientists In Hawaii First Spotted the Incredible Hulk in September 2017
Scientists at the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System in Hawaii first discovered the Hulk back in September 2017.
At that point, the comet, which is formally known as the PANSTARSS C/2017, was dim enough that it could only be viewed through a powerful telescope. But the comet — dubbed the “Hulk” because of its striking green color — suddenly exploded in brightness on July 2. All through July, it was visible to anyone who had a simple set of binoculars. And in August, the comet is expected to grow bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.