Long-Forgotten Comet is Once Again Passing Close to the Earth

23 January 23

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and thought that you are seeing the same stars as your ancestors did many centuries ago? Well by the end of January, beginning of February you have the chance to see a celestial event that was last witnessed by both the Neanderthals and the Homo sapiens 50 000 years ago.

A comet dully named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest pass to Earth around the 1st of February. Knowing that the next time the comet makes its round trip so close to Earth is in 50 000 years, this is your first and last chance to witness it with your own eyes.

How do you spot the comet?

You will need to get outside of your city in areas that are not polluted by light. You will also need to pick a night when the sky is clear, sometime at the beginning of February. That might prove to be a challenge in itself.

After getting out of the city with the bright night sky above you, it would be helpful if the moon was as dim as possible. Once out there, locate the north star and look around it to see a faint greenish dot. Using binoculars or a telescope would help.

What are comets?

Comets are large ancient celestial objects made of dust and ice, orbiting the Sun. Comets are the legacy of the formation of the solar system traveling through space for the best part of 4,5 billion years.

Comets have a frozen core called the nucleus. When a comet travels near the sun it heats up, the ice turns to gas creating a cloud around the space rock called the coma. What gives the comet its iconic tale is dust and gases streaming away from the nucleus,  stretching for millions of kilometers.

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