C/2022 E3 or more notably known as the “rare green comet,” has swept the Internet in the past weeks, with many people wondering how they can spot it. Here’s everything you need to know about the once in a 50,000-year event.
What’s C/2022 E3?
The comet is designated C/2022 E3 or ZTF after the Zwicky Transient Facility, which first spotted the comet passing Jupiter in early 2022 while conducting its routine survey of the northern night sky from Palomar Observatory in San Diego, California.
When investigating C/2022 E3 (ZTF), scientists found that the icy object had a very elongated 50,000-year orbit around the Sun, where the comet travels to the far edge of the Solar System’s Oort Cloud – the place that could be its origin, the University of Maryland’s comet expert Michael Kelley told Space.com. The Oort Cloud is believed to be a thick bubble of comet-like objects that encompasses the entire Solar System. According to NASA, objects that lurk out there can be as large as mountains.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) made its closest approach to the Sun on January 12 and is currently hurdling out of the inner Solar System, where it will subsequently pass nearest to Earth on February 1 at around 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) away, says NASA. About 109 times the distance of the Moon, so there is no need to worry.
How to spot the comet
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) should be visible without a telescope on February 1 in the early evening sky at around 6:49 p.m. EST for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in the South Hemisphere you may have to wait until later this week for the best view. The comet will appear near the bright star Polaris, also known as the North Star.
Depending on its level of brightness – which NASA says will be unpredictable – it may be visible to the naked eye. Worst case: you may need to grab some binoculars.