Astronomers have warned that a recently found comet might be seen with the naked eye when it flies by Earth and the Sun in the upcoming weeks for the first time in 50,000 years.
The Zwicky Transient Facility, which saw the comet past Jupiter for the first time in March of last year, gave it the name C/2022 E3 (ZTF).
It will pass closest to Earth on February 1 and come closest to the Sun on January 12 after leaving the coldest parts of our Solar System.
If the sky is not too lit by city lights or the Moon, it will be simple to detect with a decent pair of binoculars and maybe even with the unaided eye.
According to Thomas Prince, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology who works at the Zwicky Transient Facility, the comet “will be brightest when it is closest to the Earth.”
According to Nicolas Biver, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory, the comet is made of ice and dust, has a greenish glow, and has an estimated diameter of around a kilometer.
That makes it substantially smaller than Hale-Bopp, which raced by in 1997 with a possibly life-ending diameter of about 60 kilometers, and NEOWISE, the last comet visible to the human eye, which passed Earth in March 2020.
However, the most recent trip will be closer to Earth, which “may make up for the fact that it is not very huge,” according to Biver.
A fuller moon may make it challenging to see the comet, even though it will be at its brightest when it passes Earth in the first part of February.
Biver proposed the last week of January for the Northern Hemisphere when the comet passes over the Ursa Minor and Ursa Major constellations.
He claimed that stargazers have a fantastic opportunity with the new moon that occurs throughout the weekend of January 21–22.
The item “might get a delightful surprise and be twice as brilliant as predicted,” said Biver.
On February 10, when it will pass quite near Mars, there will be a second opportunity, according to Prince, to find the comet in the sky.