Rare green comet not seen for 50,000 years will soon be visible

Rare green comet not seen for 50,000 years will soon be visible <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Rare green comet not seen for 50,000 years will soon be visible (Image: PA)

A rare green comet, last seen around 50,000 years ago, is due to make its closest pass by Earth.

Called C/2022 E3 (ZTF), this celestial object hails from the Oort cloud at the outermost edge of the Solar System.

It will come closest to Earth on February 1, within about 45 million kilometres.

The icy ball orbits the sun once every 50,000 years, which means the last time it went past the planet was during the Stone Age - when Neanderthals roamed the Earth.

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Dr Greg Brown, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: "Long-period comet C/2022 E3 is currently speeding through the solar system and won't return for at least 50,000 years, assuming it ever does, so it's your once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it.

"Its path across our sky is taking it through the constellation of Draco the dragon and will be passing between the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, in late January and into early February."

C/2022 E3 was first spotted in March 2022, using the Zwicky Transient Facility – a wide-field survey using a new camera attached to a telescope - in California.

Its green glow is a result of ultraviolet radiation from the sun lighting up the gases surrounding the comet's surface.

C/2022 E3 has recently become bright enough to see with the naked eye in areas with minimal light pollution.

Dr Brown commented: "For observers in the UK, head out after midnight when the comet will be highest in the sky and try and find the faint greenish light coming from it.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

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