The newly-discovered comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), also known as the Green Comet, is coming the closest to the Earth in over 50,000 years and has now become visible to the naked eye under dark sky conditions.
The comet, which was first discovered by astronomers in March 2022, has a bright green nucleus and a long faint ion tail. The astronomical body has been brightening since November last year and will become the brightest in early February.
When and How to See the Green Comet?
The comet is currently travelling through the northern skies and will approach the perigee, the nearest point to Earth, on February 1. You can see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) just after sunset by looking north. Under the right dark conditions, the comet will be visible as a faint greenish glow to the naked eye; however, you should use binoculars to spot the body easily.
The comet can be tracked through all the major astronomy and sky-tracking apps. Astrophysicist Hanno Rein at the University of Toronto has also developed a dedicated app to locate the green comet, which is available on the Apple Store.
On January 23, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) appeared close to the Draco constellation. Three days later, it appeared just beside Ursa Minor on January 26. By January 30, it will move east toward Camelopardali and appear on the same point on February 1. By February 10, the comet would have moved far east and will appear closer to Mars.
If you do not get to see the comet in the sky, The Virtual Telescope Project will be there to help. The project will be live-streaming the viewing of the comet, which begins on February 1 at 11:00 p.m. EST on its website and YouTube channel.
The Comet is Being Called a ‘Super Rare’ Event
The green comet has travelled through 2.8 trillion miles in the last 50,000 years. Scientists believe it may never return again, which makes its sighting a ‘super rare’ event. The comet was discovered by astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California in March 2022.
“If C/2022 E3 has ever passed through the solar system before, it would have last been seen in the sky more than 10,000 years ago,” says Jon Giorgini, a senior analyst at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Comets are chunks of dirty ice — ice with lots of dust and dirt frozen into it left over from the days that the sun and the planets were first forming 5 billion years ago,” explains Andrew Fraknoi, an astronomy professor at the University of San Francisco.
The green color of the comet comes from dicarbon, a molecule made from two carbon atoms bonded together. The process is quite unusual, and the appearance of green comets is quite rare.
Scientists have also observed that the comet has formed an ‘anti-tail’, an optical illusion that forms a second, forward-facing tail. The phenomenon is caused by larger dust particles which create a disk along the comet’s orbit. When Earth passes through the orbital plane of the comet, the disk is seen side-on, which appears as a reversed anti-tail.
Stay tuned for more news and updates.