How to spot rare green comet tonight in once in 50,000 years chance
A rare comet has made its closest pass to Earth, giving stargazers a once-in-a-50,000-year opportunity to see it.
The C/2022 E3 (ZTF), or "green comet", was last visible during the Stone Age, but can once again be seen on Wednesday in a rare astronomical occurrence.
Early on Wednesday morning at its perigee - the point closest to Earth - the comet was so bright it was discernible to the naked eye.
There will be another chance to see the phenomena again on Wednesday evening.
Where is the comet?
The C/2022 E3 (ZTF) comet is thought to have come from the Oort cloud, a collection of icy objects farther away than everything else in the solar system.
On Monday, the green comet left the constellation of Corona Borealis, where it has been for some time.
Its earthward trajectory means it should now be visible in both the morning and evening sky for observers at mid-northern latitudes, encompassing North America and Eurasia.
The comet reached the closest point to Earth on its trajectory in the early hours of Feb 1 2023.
When is the best time to view it?
The best time to view the comet is Wednesday night, preferably after midnight, when it is at the highest point in the sky. Avoiding bright city lights would also help to improve visibility.
How to view it
At the relatively close distance of 26 million miles from Earth, some observers have reportedly been able to view the comet without the aid of a telescope or binoculars, according to the BBC Sky at Night magazine.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is now regularly being reported to be brighter than mag. +6, according to the magazine, making it visible to the naked eye.
Observers will however have to look closely to spot it, as its brightness is right at the threshold of what is visible to the naked eye.
Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, warned that observers expecting a "bright green object lighting up the sky" may be disappointed.
He told BBC News: "If you're lucky, you'll see a hint of the tail coming off it." He added: "Even a small pair of binoculars will help you find it."