On Wednesday, a comet that originated in the outer reaches of the solar system will come close to Earth. Observers will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the celestial object as it makes its way through our cosmic backyard for the first occasion in 50,000 years.
Before continuing on its distant orbit around the sun, the “green comet,” which does not pose any threat to the Earth, will make a flyby that provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it.
If the sky is clear, the comet with the official designation C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to the Earth on Wednesday. If circumstances are favorable, the comet may be bright enough to be seen via telescopes and binoculars.
According to the Adler Planetarium’s calculations, the comet will get within a distance of 26 million miles of the globe at its closest approach. The previous time Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) visited Earth was during the Upper Paleolithic epoch, which was also the time period in which Neanderthals inhabited the earth.
NASA reports that this cosmic visitor has been progressively brightening as it goes through the inner solar system, which could help people get a glimpse of it as it moves through. Comets may be difficult to notice in the night sky due to their obscurity.
Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere have had opportunities to see the celestial visitor on clear evenings throughout the most of the month of January. Astronomers have been monitoring the comet as it draws closer to Earth. On January 12, the comet had already completed one of its prior closest approaches to the sun.
According to EarthSky, a website dedicated to skywatching and astronomy, in order to see the comet as it approaches Earth, people in the Northern Hemisphere should find a spot before dawn and look toward the northeastern horizon.
This will allow them to see the comet as it gets closer to our planet. After the moon has set in the western sky and is no longer visible in the night sky in late January and early February, the ideal time to look for the comet will be in the early morning hours, after the moon is no longer visible.
According to EarthSky, skywatchers located in the Southern Hemisphere won’t have a decent chance of getting a clear look of the comet.
When seen with binoculars, the comet may appear in the sky as a very faint green light. The abundance of carbon in the cloud of gas that encircles the nucleus of the comet is responsible for its emerald coloration.
If the comet persists to brighten, it may be possible to see it with the naked eye as it makes its closest approach to Earth; however, binoculars and telescopes will likely be able to spy nitty gritty of the comet, possibly including a portion of its faint tail.
The Virtual Telescope Project plans to begin broadcasting live, real-time views of the green comet from robotically controlled telescopes in Italy and Spain beginning on Wednesday, February 1 at 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Those who are unable to see the comet in person will be able to watch the broadcast.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will not again be seen to the naked eye for a very, very long time after this chance has passed. This frozen body has a very lengthy orbit, so over the course of thousands of years, it travels all the way to the edge of the solar system as it makes its way around the sun.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was found by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory, which is located north of San Diego, in March of last year using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility.
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