A comet that last appeared in the night sky when Neanderthals still roamed the Earth is making a reappearance at the start of the year.
The comet will be visible to the naked eye PHOTO Shutterstock
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) orbits the Sun every 50,000 years and will pass approximately 42 million kilometers from Earth on February 1, 2023, which will make it visible to the naked eye, according to jurnalul.ro.
It is already visible with binoculars and low-altitude telescopes when the sky is clear, and should become visible without specialized equipment by mid-to-late January.
Astronomers have already tracked comet E3, revealing a blue-green coma and a golden tail, according to the Independent. E3 will be the first comet to light up the sky since Comet Neowise in the summer of 2020.
First discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in California, comet E3 was photographed by NASA astronomers.
Comet E3 got its name because it was the third comet discovered in the fifth week of the year.
Astronomers advise anyone hoping to see Comet E3 to choose a dark place with no ambient light and allow 30 minutes for their eyes to adjust.
Also, specialized smartphone apps and websites, such as Star Chart, Sky Safari and SkyView, can be used to determine the comet’s position in the sky.
“Comets are intrinsically highly unpredictable objects because their luminosity depends on the scattering of sunlight by dust particles in the comet’s coma and tail”said comet-tracking site In-The-Sky.
“This dust is continually moving away from the comet’s nucleus, and its density at any given time is governed by the sublimation rate of the ice in the comet’s nucleus as it is heated by the sun’s rays. It also depends on the amount of dust that is mixed with the ice. This is very difficult to predict in advance and can be very variable even between successive appearances of the same comet.”