May 28, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

This is Comet Neowise not Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF), hopefully we will get some accessible images of Comet 2022 E3 soon (Photo credit to NASA/Bill Ingall)

Rare Green Comet to Make Appearance After 50,000 Years

by Gabriella Sotelo (27 January 2023)

This comet, known as Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was first discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, and was distinguishable by its bright green glow. It was expected to make its closest approach to the Sun earlier this month, and will pass closest to Earth on February 2.

The orbital period for the comet, or the period in which it takes one astronomical object to orbit another, in this case the Sun, was calculated to be 50,000 years. This means the last time the comet was this close to the Earth was during the Stone Age, and we should be able to spot it.

“Comets are notoriously unpredictable,” NASA wrote in its “What’s Up” blog. “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.”

People in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to view the comet during the rest of January and maybe early February, while those in the Southern Hemisphere should be able to observe the comet in early February, according to NASA.

The comet should come closest to the Earth specifically next week on February 1 and February 2 when it flies past the planet at a distance of 2.5 light minutes, which makes it around 27m miles away. And this makes us wonder how and where can we see it. 

How to See Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?

You can  use stargazing apps to help you find the location of the comet. When the comet gets closest to Earth it will be in the Camelopardalis constellation. Stargazing apps like SkyView, Night Sky, and Sky Guide help map constellations of stars, which can then help you find where the comet is.

Predawn hours will be the best time to see the comet according to NASA. As previously mentioned, the comet will make its closest approach to Earth on February 2.

 Some will potentially be able to see the comet with the naked eye if they are in a dark viewing area. However your chances of seeing the comet are better if you have a telescope or binoculars.

Let us know if you see this beautiful rare comet