And then it’s gone for another 600,000 years.
Scientists have spent the last few years tracking down a curious space rock called the 2014 UN271, which is a little too big to be a comet and a little too small to be a planet as it orbits through the solar system.
And pretty soon they will finally be able to get an even better look at it accordingly New Atlas, when 2014 UN271 reaches the closest point to Earth in its orbit in 2031, when it reaches approximately the same distance from the Sun as Saturn ̵
When that was the case, astronomers had better hopes for clear skies because it would take another 612,190 years before it completes another trip around the sun. For context, it is about the time that elapsed between the emergence of Neanderthals and today.
The bizarre orbit of the space rock takes it to meander across the entire solar system according to New Atlas, periodically traveling closer and further away from the sun and even sometimes almost fleeing into interstellar space.
It is extremely rare for an object to normally orbit so far to find its way to the inner solar system, so the upcoming visit will be an extraordinary opportunity for astronomers to investigate what a space rock like UN271 in 2014 looks like without having to start a space apart and wait the years it would take for it to travel.
Unfortunately, hobbyists will have to miss it – even if it gets relatively close to Earth, UN271 2014 will only ever be as bright in the night sky as Pluto or its moon Charon, making it extremely difficult to spot without professional research tools.
READ MORE: Extremely eccentric smaller planet to visit the inner solar system in this decade[[[[New Atlas]
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