The bright green comet, which has not been seen since the last ice age, will be visible in the sky of D-FW later this month.
The comet, dubbed C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was discovered by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in March 2022. According to NASA, it will be visible in the Earth’s northern hemisphere, including D-FW, in January, and in the southern hemisphere in February.
It can take hundreds to millions of years for comets to complete one full orbit around the sun. Halley’s famous Comet takes about 76 years to pass. This bright green comet takes 50,000 years to complete its journey.
“The last time he was close to the Earth was about 50,000 years ago, that is, at the time when Homo sapiensour species has just begun to emerge,” said Manfred Kunz, professor of physics at the University of Texas at Arlington.
What are comets?
Comets are like “messengers from the ultra-early solar system,” Kunz said. Scientists study them to gain information about the materials used to build our solar system.
They are made of stone, ice and frozen gases. Comets heat up as they approach the Sun, releasing gas and dust and forming a characteristic cometary “tail”.
According to Matt Siegler, an associate professor at Southern Methodist University, this comet’s bright green color could be due to the type of gas it is spewing out.
He added that the comet’s long orbit makes it a milestone in human history.
“A lot has happened to humans in the last 50,000 years,” said Ziegler, who is also a fellow at the nonprofit Planetary Science Institute. “And it’s nice to think that the last people who saw it lived in such a different world.”
How can I see this bright green comet?
According to NASA, the comet is “flying” over the northern constellation Northern Corona. It will likely be visible in D-FW skies in mid to late January, Kunz said. He recommended checking out NASA’s website later this month for the best time to catch a glimpse.
The comet can be seen with the naked eye, and can definitely be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Ziegler said a mobile app for the telescope would suffice.
Kunz recommended looking for a comet in the early morning when the sun is low. He suggested that citizens move away from the artificial lighting of the city for better visibility.
“This [artificial] kind of light always competes with light from stars and celestial objects,” he said.
The bright green comet is like a cosmic time capsule: a rare shared moment between the dawn of humanity, our current generation, and the inhabitants of the planet 50,000 years into the future.
As Koontz said, “Literally speaking, the chance comes once in a lifetime.”