STEPHEN & DONNA O'MEARA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY STEPHEN & DONNA O'MEARA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Comet 17P/Holmes in the constellation Perseus, approaching the 2nd-magnitude star Alpha Persei, (Mirfak). Comet 17P/Holmes is a periodic comet that suddenly flared from magnitude 17 to 3rd magnitude in less than two days in late October 2007. By early November, the swelling envelope of gas and dust surrounding the comet's icy nucleus grew to a diameter that exceeded the Sun's, making it the largest object in the solar system. Under dark skies it remained visible to the unaided eyes for months.
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