If you didn’t get your fill of incredible, green giants during Avengers: Infinity War, you’re in luck: a comet nicknamed the "Incredible Hulk" may be visible in our very own sky tonight. Scientists say this will likely be the first time the glowing green comet has entered into our inner solar system, coming within 70 million miles of the Earth. For viewing, binoculars are likely required. Costumes are highly encouraged.
The Incredible Hulk comet is formally known as PanSTARRS C/2017 S3, but that’s a mouthful and has nothing to do with Mark Ruffalo so let’s stick to “Incredible Hulk.” As you may have inferred, the comet gets its nickname from its distinct color and notable size. As Popular Mechanics explains, the comet gets its green glow from a chemical reaction: when the comet’s cyanide and carbon molecules are ionized by the sun’s heat, the comet glows green.
How big does a comet have to be to have to honor of sharing a name with the Hulk? To put it scientifically, like, really big. The Incredible Hulk is surrounded by a gas cloud that is 161,000 miles wide, according to amatuer astronomer Michael Jäger. For context, that’s about twice the size of Jupiter, which is classified as a giant planet. So, yeah, “Incredible Hulk” is fitting.
How To See The Incredible Hulk Comet
Tuesday, August 7 and Wednesday, August 8 are were predicted to be the best viewing days for the Incredible Hulk comet. Scientists and fans of large, green things alike were hoping the comet would be visible to people in the northern hemisphere with a pair of standard binoculars. Unfortunately, Live Science reports we likely won’t be able to see the comet as it passes. Hulk...sad.
While you wouldn’t have had to pay any surge prices to see this Incredible Hulk, your view is probably obstructed by other forces: namely, the sun. The comet isn’t currently visible as it is passing too closely to the sun. Just in case this gnarly summer weather wasn’t enough reason to curse the sun, there’s another reason for you. “Eventually, it will get far enough away from the Sun along its orbit so that it can be seen from Earth again,” NASA Near-Earth Object Observations Program Manager Kelly Fast told Newsweek, “but it will be far away and faint and may only be observable with large telescopes.”
Fortunately, particularly for those in the southern hemisphere, the Incredible Hulk comet may be visible later this month. As a manager for the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tells Live Science, after the comet rounds the sun on August 16, it may be visible by us earthlings again.
If you want to track the comet’s progress, theSkyLive.com has a few maps you can follow along with at home.
Is The Comet Dangerous To Us On Earth At All?
A majority of scientists say no. However, a singular Russian scientists named Yevgeniy Dmitriyev has been warning Russian media about the Incredible Hulk comet, saying it could cause “electromagnetic disturbances” to our planet’s atmosphere. “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 told Sputnik News. Again, the rest of the scientific community has expressed no concern about the comet whatsoever.
The Incredible Hulk comet was first discovered in September 2017. Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) observatory in Haleakala, Hawaii first logged the glowing green comet. Hopefully, the rest of us (at least the rest of us with powerful telescopes) will also be able to bear witness to the glowing green hulk in the sky.