Just how big is a comet? It all depends on your perspective.
When compared to vast structures like the Milky Way, which is about 100,000 light-years across, comets are tiny. After all, the nucleus of a typical comet is less than six miles wide. But a fun new illustration featuring Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, now awaiting a landing by the European Space Agency's Rosetta orbiter, reminds us six miles is tiny only in astronomical terms.
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— michel (@quark1972) August 18, 2014
The illustration shows what Churyumov–Gerasimenko might look like if it were to be plucked from outer space and placed ever so gently behind downtown Los Angeles.
It's an eye-catching image for sure. And it does give a reasonably accurate sense of the comet's size, Dr. Claudia J. Alexander, a project scientist with the U.S. Rosetta Project, said in an email to The Huffington Post.
The comet's "long dimension" of 3.3 km (2 miles) doesn't seem to be shown exactly to scale, she said, though "it's difficult to gauge from just the location of downtown relative to the comet."
She added, "The city is larger than the comet by about a factor of 10. Wikipedia tells me that there are 80 districts in the city, and with that in mind, I'd say that probably the picture has it right (since downtown and another district are pictured)."