A newly discovered green comet will pass by the Pale Blue Dot and may be visible to the naked eye.
NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech predicted that between January 12 and February 2, the green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) would initially approach the Sun before looping back towards Earth.
According to a JPL report, the comet will be visible in the early morning sky around the end of January for skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere. Beginning in early February, it should be visible from the Southern Hemisphere.
According to Space.com, the best viewing period occurs on January 21 during the new moon, when the sky would be exceedingly dark without the Moon’s illumination.
Although comets are notoriously unpredictable, the JPL reports that if this one maintains its current brightness trend, it will be easy to identify using binoculars and may even become visible to the naked eye in gloomy skies.
Using a wide-field survey camera at CalTech’s Zwick Transient Facility, this striking green comet was detected in March 2022 and positioned within Jupiter’s orbit. Since then, it has drifted closer and closer to the Sun, and according to a NASA blog article about the comet, it will reach its closest point to Earth on February 1.
According to JPL data made public by Space.com, the last time this beautiful green monster came this close to Earth was approximately 50,000 years ago, making Ice Age Neanderthals the last people to have seen it.
As C/2022 E3 (ZTF) moves toward and away from Earth, it may be difficult to observe due to light pollution and weather, but skywatchers with expensive telephoto lenses or institutional telescopes will be able to snap spectacular photographs of it.