For the first time in 50,000 years, a recently discovered comet will appear in the night sky.
According to NASA, the comet was discovered on March 2, 2022, by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera of the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California. On January 12, the comet will be closest to the sun.
According to The Planetary Society, the comet, which is referred to as C/2022 E3 (ZTF), has an orbit around the sun that takes it through the outer reaches of the solar system. This is the reason why it has taken such a long time to come back to Earth.
EarthSky says that on January 12, skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere using telescopes and binoculars should look low on the northeastern horizon just before midnight to see it.
According to EarthSky, the icy celestial object, whose brightness has steadily increased as it approaches the sun, will then make its closest approach to Earth between February 1 and February 2, approximately 42 million kilometers away. As the comet approaches Earth, observers will be able to observe it in close proximity to the bright star Polaris, which is also known as the North Star. It should be visible earlier in the evening.
NASA says that skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to see the comet in the morning sky for most of January, and those in the Southern Hemisphere should be able to see it in the beginning of February.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) may even become visible to the naked eye in dark skies toward the end of January, depending on how bright it gets in the coming weeks.
The comet is distinguished from stars by the glowing green coma that surrounds it and its streaking tails of energized particles. As a comet approaches the sun, an envelope known as the coma forms around it, causing the ice to sublimate or transform directly into gas. When observed through telescopes, the comet appears fuzzy as a result of this.