The green comet will pass near Earth for the first time in 50,000 years

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A newly discovered green comet will soon pass by Earth for the first time in 50,000 years. It was last visible in the night sky in the Stone Age.

Discovered on March 2, 2022, by astronomers using the Wide Field Surveillance Camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, the comet made its closest approach to the sun on January 12, according to NASA.

Named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the comet has an orbit around the sun that crosses the outer reaches of the solar system, which is why it took such a long way – and so long – to pass through Earth again, according to The planetary society.

The icy celestial object will make its closest pass to Earth between February 1 and 2, about 26 to 27 million miles (42 to 44 million kilometers), according to EarthSky.

Even on its closest approach, the comet will still be more than 100 times the distance from the Moon to Earth, according to EarthSky.

As the comet approaches Earth, observers will be able to spot it as a faint green speck near the bright star Polaris, also known as the North Star. Comets reflect different colors of light due to their current positions in orbit and their chemical compositions.

Early morning skies, once the moon has set past midnight for those in the northern hemisphere, are optimal for viewing the comet. The space object will be harder to see for those in the southern hemisphere.

Depending on its brightness, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) may even be visible to the naked eye in dark skies, but binoculars or a telescope will make the comet easier to see.

The comet is distinguishable from stars by its tails streaked with dust and energized particles, as well as the bright green coma that surrounds it.

The coma is an envelope which forms around a comet during its passage near the sun, causing the sublimation of its ice or its direct transformation into gas. This makes the comet blurry when viewed through telescopes.

After passing by Earth, the comet will make its closest approach to Mars on February 10, according to EarthSky.

If clouds or bad weather get in the way of skywatching, the Virtual Telescope Project will share a live feed of the comet in the sky above Rome. And don’t miss the other celestial events to see in 2023.

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