After not being seen for 50,000 years, a rare green comet makes its closest approach to Earth, making it visible for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Called C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the object comes from the Oort Cloud, the outermost part of the solar system.
Its green glow is the result of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun illuminating the gas surrounding the comet’s surface.
A ball of ice revolves around the sun once every 50,000 years. So the last time a ball of ice passed over the planet was during the Stone Age, when Neanderthals were roaming the Earth.
It’s due to pass closest to the planet, still about 42 million kilometers away, Wednesday night through early Thursday morning, in very dark skies as a faint smudge to those looking for it with the naked eye. will appear.
However, even if the Moon is too bright to spot the comet on Wednesday night, you may still be able to catch a glimpse of it when it transits Mars a week later.
Professor Don Polacco, Department of Physics, University of Warwick, told PA news agency:
“It was named the ‘green comet’ because of the striking color of the comet’s head.
“We understand that this is due to the light emitted from the carbon molecules emitted from the nucleus due to the increase in heat during the closest approach to the sun around January 12th.
“Some comets come closer to the Sun and are completely vaporized by intense radiation.”
“Tonight, the comet is about halfway between the North Star and the bright star Capella, overhead at about 11pm.
“But a crescent moon makes the comet much harder to spot. Seeing it requires clear skies, binoculars, and a bit of luck.
“Alternatively, wait a few days until about February 10, and the moon will become less bright, making the comet more visible in the southern part of the sky that passes Mars.”
The comet is already visible in the night sky with telescopes and binoculars from the northern hemisphere, according to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
“Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to Earth on February 1. This is also the moment the comet appears brightest, and is now expected to reach a magnitude of +6. This means that it can be seen with the naked eye.
“But it’s worth noting that comets can be unpredictable, and it’s difficult to say in advance exactly how bright they will be or what they will look like.
“The comet looks like a blurry green sphere or speck in the sky. This green glow is the result of ultraviolet light from the sun illuminating the gas flowing off the comet’s surface.”
As for where you can see comets in the night sky, the observatory says:
“After closest approach, the green comet will pass Auriga and reach Taurus in mid-February.
“Comets get dimmer as they move away from us and spend less and less time in the night sky.”