It’s not every day that you get to see a relic of caveman times, but this week all you need to do is look up and scan the sky for a green dot.
And don’t panic when you see it! That’s not aliens here to abduct you so that you have a story to tell on Joe Rogan’s podcast, nor is it a Russian ballistic missile arriving to show how displeased they are with our support of Ukraine. Rather, it’s a comet that was last here 50,000 years ago. ABC, describing the comet and its arrival, said:
A rare green comet is expected to pass by Earth this week and will be visible in the night sky for nearly a month, according to NASA and astronomers.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered last March when it was already inside the orbit of Jupiter. It is distinguishable by its green glow.
So just look for the distinctive green glow in the sky, with this week being the best to do it if you’re in the Northern hemisphere. Why? Because according to scientists at NASA, the will make its closest approach to the sun, or perihelion, on Jan. 12. That will make its green glow highly distinctive and what you want to look for.
In fact, it might glow green enough and bright enough that you don’t even need binoculars or a telescope to see it. According to NASA, which wrote about how you can see the comet on its “What’s Up” blog earlier this month, “Comets are notoriously unpredictable, 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.”
But, whether the Mark I eyeball is a good enough way to view it or not, you still need to know where to look in the sky to see it. That would be the horizon to the northwest, as ABC reported, saying:
The comet will shift to the northwest on the horizon throughout January and it will make its closest pass of Earth between Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, according to NASA. During that time, the comet will be 26 million miles away from the planet, according to astronomers.
The Planetary Society gave similar instructions, saying:
Observers in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best chance of spotting the comet if they look in the northwestern skies before dawn. Without a telescope, Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) will most likely look like a faint, greenish smudge in the sky rather than a bright object, and isn’t likely to have the dramatic, visible tail we saw on Comet NEOWISE in 2020. But it’s still worth checking out; this particular comet takes around 50,000 years to orbit the Sun, so an opportunity to see it will only come once in a lifetime.
After that, the comet will move nearer to Mars, so you can direct your binoculars that way to catch a glimpse of a relic of caveman days that’s still hurtling through space.
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