Comet to pass by Earth for first time in 50,000 years

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

KSNF/KODE — A green comet discovered last March will make its closest approach to Earth this month. The comet “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” was first discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at California’s Zwicky Transient Facility. 

When it was first found, it was already inside the orbit of Jupiter. Since then, it has brightened substantially and is sweeping across the northern constellation, Corona Borealis in the predawn skies, according to NASA.

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The agency notes that it is still too dim to see without a telescope — though an image from December reveals its bright coma, short broad dust tail, and faint ion tail. The comet will soon be at perihelion, (its closest pass by the Sun) on January 12th and at the closest to Earth on February 1st. 

NASA notes that the brightness of comets is unpredictable, but by then, comet “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” could become only just visible to the eye in the night skies. The key for those wishing to see the comet then, will need to find a dark location to observe from. Those who live in the Northern Hemisphere will find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves swiftly toward the northwest during January.

Current projections suggest looking for two well known constellations to pinpoint the comet’s location. Between January 12th and February 1st, look for the comet to appear just south of the Big Dipper, and north of the Little Dipper.

According to NASA, the comet has a full orbit of around 50,000 years, meaning that the last time it came close to Earth was when Neanderthals roamed the planet.

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