In the depths of the Stone Age, when Neanderthals still lived side by side Homo sapiensPerhaps our ancestors were excited by the green light in the night sky. Now, this light –C/2022 E3 (ZTF) (more famously, the green comet)-is back.
The green comet’s highly elliptical orbit means that it will take a long time for it to swing over Earth again – about 50,000 years, to be specific. And this is if she repeats her 50,000-year stay, and she may not.
The comet was discovered by astronomers in March 2022 using the automated Samuel Oschin telescope at the Zwicky Transit Facility. It passed perihelion (when it is closest to the sun) on January 12.
Observers in the United States can see the comet now through early Februarypotentially with the naked eye if you are in A dark viewing area, but your chances will be better with binoculars or a telescope. The best time to see the comet is in the predawn hours, according to NASA.
The comet will make its closest approach to our planet on February 2. Its closest approach will take it about 0.29 AU (about 27 million miles) from Earth, According to EarthSky.
Currently, the comet is toward the constellation Boötes and near Hercules, EarthSky Reports. (If you’re having trouble finding the comet’s location, you can consult A Handy interactive sky chart.) comet The location makes it difficult for observers in the Southern Hemisphere to see. From its current position in the night sky, its projected path plots its way away from Ursa Minor (The Little Dipper), passing near Camelopardis at the time of its closest approach.
Comets glow thanks to their chemical makeup and sunlight. Comets passing close to the Sun are illuminated and warmed by their energy, causing particles on their surface to evaporate and fluoresce. Comet heads glow green when they contain cyanogen or diatomic carbon. According to NASA.
The green comet may become 5 magnitudes brighter by the time it approaches Earth. According to EarthSky. The lower the number, the brighter the object. full moon virtual size is about -11, The weakest objects seen by the Hubble Space Telescope have a magnitude of 30. According to Britannica. The faintest stars that the naked eye can see are about 6 magnitudes.
While the comet may brighten up to magnitude 5, it will happen It may be helpful to use binoculars or a telescope if you are having difficulty spotting the object On a clear night.
The incoming space rock isn’t the only green comet; In 2018, comet 46P/Wirtanen It was bright enough for observers to see with the naked eye, and in 2021Comet Leonard glowed green as the ice ball made its cosmic trajectory.
So keep an eye out for the clear nights ahead. If you see something with a faint green glow, it’s likely our newest cosmic visitor.