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Bright green comet to fly through the sky for the first time in 50,000 years

3 min read

A bright green comet is set to fly across the sky in just a few days and humans will be able to see it for the first time in 50,000 years.

The comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), is set to get its closest to the sun on January 12 and will become visible that morning across the northern hemisphere.

According to NASA, the comet has been getting gradually brighter as it approaches the sun, and it should be easily visible with the help of binoculars, reported.

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In the UK, keen astronomers will have to get up early if they want to catch a glimpse, however, as C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will only be visible in the early hours of the morning before the sun rises.

If you live in a big city it's more bad news, too – light pollution may make it more difficult to see the comet as it makes its way across the solar system.

In areas with clear skies, however, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) should be easy to spot – and it may even be visible to the naked eye.

Passionate space fiends can even head to a dark-sky site – an area where air pollution is very low and there are good sight lines of the sky – to ensure they get a good view of the rock on its journey.

Don't expect a spectacular light show, though – the comet is expected to look like "a smudge in the sky, like someone has dipped their finger in chalk dust and dabbed it on a blackboard," according to the BBC's Sky At Night magazine.

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Discovered in March 2022, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) isn't often visible from our planet as it makes a tour of the outer reaches of the solar system every time it orbits the sun.

The comet eluded scientists until it was picked up by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility’s wide-field survey camera in southern California.

Its bright green glow is caused by an "envelope" that firms up around the outside of the comet as it passes by the sun, its icy exterior is turned into gas.

While humans haven't been able to see C/2022 E3 (ZTF) for millennia, this isn't the first time in living memory that a visible comet has passed by planet Earth.

Comet NEOWISE became famous for being one of the brightest comets in the northern hemisphere, and could be seen with the naked eye throughout July 2020.

Before NEOWISE, Comet Hale–Bopp lit up the night sky for a record-breaking 18 months, starting in 1997.

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