A rare green comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), is set to make its closest approach to Earth this week, providing stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere a chance to catch a glimpse of the celestial spectacle if the skies are clear. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has said that the comet will come within 26 million miles of Earth on February 1st and 2nd, before speeding away again, unlikely to return for millions of years.
Comets are cosmic snowballs made of frozen gases, rocks, and dust that orbit the Sun. Upon approaching the Sun, these celestial bodies release gases and dust into a large glowing head, which is bigger than most planets. The orbital period of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was determined to be around 50,000 years, meaning that it will be making its first approach to Earth in 50,000 years next month.
Here’s what you need to know about the rare green comet and its journey:
Spotting C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
- The comet was first spotted by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in March 2022 and has grown brighter since then.
- NASA says that the comet will shift to the northwest on the horizon throughout January and it will make its closest pass of Earth between February 1st and 2nd.
- “Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies,” NASA said in its “What’s Up” blog.
A Journey Back in Time
- NASA says that the comet visited Earth during Neanderthal times.
- The orbital period of the comet was determined to be around 50,000 years.
- This means that it will be making its first approach to Earth in 50,000 years next month.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere and have clear skies, be sure to look up and catch a glimpse of the rare green comet as it streaks past Earth on its journey back in time.