For the first time in 50,000 years, a green, long-period comet named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will soar across our night skies. On February 2, the comet will appear a mere 26 million miles out from Earth, a phenomenon that hasn’t occurred since the Stone Age, according to astronomers.
NASA has had the comet on its radar since March 2022, when it was captured on a wide-field survey camera. Since then, the comet has “brightened substantially” writes NASA, and on February 1, when it reaches its closest point to our planet, it will be visible for those of us without wide-field survey cameras.
“On a voyage through the inner Solar System comet 2022 E3 will be at perihelion, its closest to the Sun, in the new year on January 12, its closet to our fair planet, on February 1,” NASA’s website reads. “The brightness of comets is notoriously unpredictable, but by then C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could become only just visible to the eye in dark night skies.”
While it’s currently too dim to witness the bright green nucleus with an unaided eye, stargazers can use telescopes and binoculars in the meantime to get a glimpse. And, of course, those eager to catch C/2022 E3 (ZTF) without equipment will be most successful with optimal conditions, such as clear and dark skies away from city lights.
You don’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, as you’ll have to wait another 50,000 years before it makes its return! Just be sure to look up and keep an eye out for the comet’s dashing bright green nucleus on February 1-2.
For the best glimpse, you can check skywatching apps such a Google Sky, SkySafari, or Star Tracker to keep track of where the comet is in relation to us.