Those who are into space science and keeping an eye on the sky will have a reason to be just a little more attentive and observant starting Thursday.
A newly discovered comet will begin zipping across the sky, complete with a fun but eerie dim, green glow, according to Fox Weather.
Astronomers spotted the comet within a year of the time when it’s expected to be most visible from Earth. After this pass, it won’t be around for another 50,000 years or more.
The comet, given the temporary name of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was discovered in early March by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility’s wide-field survey camera at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory near San Diego, according to NASA.
It will be most visible from Thursday through mid-February and will be closest to Earth on Feb. 1.
On a clear night, the comet could be spotted with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars.
But hey, what space science enthusiast doesn’t appreciate the opportunity to set up his or her telescope and maybe even invite a few like-minded friends over for a C/2022 E3 (ZTF) viewing party?
Thomas Prince, astronomer and director of the W.M. Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech, spoke with Fox Weather about the best opportunities to view the comet.
“It has to be a dark sky and moonless in the sky,” Prince said.
Setting up on a clear night in an area with minimal light pollution is ideal, he said.
“It will distinguish itself probably from other stars because it will look a little bit fuzzy compared to other stars,” Prince said.
It will also be a bright shade of green and have a faint tail.
#PPOD: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at @ztfsurvey in early March 2022. This telescopic image from December 19 shows the comet’s brighter greenish coma, short broad dust tail, and long faint ion tail. Credit: Dan Bartlett pic.twitter.com/zwBqiAwG2a
— The SETI Institute (@SETIInstitute) January 6, 2023
If choosing to view Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) during February, Prince suggested sometime around Feb. 10. (This could make for a unique early Valentine’s Day activity for some couples).
“Mars is very bright, and you can just look within one degree around Mars and maybe be able to see it,” he said.
— CCNY Planetarium (@CCNYPlanetarium) January 10, 2023
While Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) isn’t going to return for about another 50,000 years, there are a few others that can be observed over the course of 2023, according to Starwalk Space:
• 96P/Machholz — Jan. 31
• C/2020 V2 — May 8
• C/2021 T4 (Lemmon) — July 31
• 103P/Hartley — Oct. 12
• 2P/Encke — Oct. 21
• 62P/Tsuchinshan — Dec. 24
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