C/2022 E3 (ZTF): The green, icy comet passes Earth

The last time a comet flew by Earth was 50,000 years ago.

The last time a comet flew by Earth was 50,000 years ago.
Image credit and copyright: Dan Bartlett

An ice comet will fly over Earth in a few weeks – for the first time in 50,000 years.

Even with the naked eye, it is said to be visible in the night sky with its green tail.

According to NASA, the comet comes from the mysterious Oort Cloud.

According to NASA, a green comet will pass Earth for the first time since the Stone Age. It can be visible in the sky in late January and early February.

The icy comet, called C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was discovered by astronomers in March 2022. They had never seen it before because it takes so long to orbit the sun, completing an orbit that lasts tens of thousands of years. When this comet was last in our neighborhood, modern astronomy–and human civilization–didn’t exist.

The comet is expected to come within about 26 million miles from Earth on February 2nd. According to astronomers, this will be the closest it has been to Earth in 50,000 years. At that time people were in the Neolithic period. At that time people probably left Africa and settled in Asia and Europe. Neanderthals still live on Earth. The planet was in the middle of an ice age.

The icy cosmic visitor will pass our planet at a distance roughly 109 times the average distance of the Moon, but the comet is so bright that it can still be seen in the night sky.

“Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this comet continues in its current direction of brightness it will be easy to spot with binoculars and there is a good chance it will become visible to the naked eye under dark skies,” NASA wrote in an update. December 29th.

Where will the comet be seen

In the Northern Hemisphere, the green comet should be visible before sunrise in late January. At first it can only be seen with a telescope, but as it gets closer to Earth, NASA expects to see it with binoculars as well.

“The comet has brightened dramatically and is now passing over the northern constellation Corona Borealis in the morning sky,” NASA said in a press release. At this point, it was still too weak to see with a telescope.

A full new moon eclipse on January 21 could lead to dark skies perfect for comet sighting.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the green cosmic snowball will be visible in early February. The comet has a green dust tail and a long, faint ion tail, according to NASA.

Many comets glow green. The researchers associate this with a reactive molecule called dicarbon, which emits green light when refracted in sunlight. Dicarbonate is common in comets but is not usually found in their tails. This is why the so-called coma — the haze surrounding the frozen ball of gas, dust, and rock at a comet’s center — glows green while the tail remains white.

Experts told USA Today that the comet most likely originated in the Oort Cloud, the farthest region in the solar system that NASA has described as a large, thick-walled bubble of icy space debris the size of a mountain and sometimes larger.

Last chance to see the comet

Jessica Lee, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, told Newsweek.

She added: “Some predictions indicate that the orbit of this comet is so eccentric that it is out of its orbit – so it will not return at all and will continue to travel.”

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