Green comet 2023: Icy visitor to pass by Earth’s outer space first time in 50,000 years, when is it
NASA said the bright green comet may just be visible to the naked eye when it comes closest to Earth.
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For the first time in 50,000 years, a green comet is expected to pass by Earth’s outer space that might just be bright enough to be seen by the naked eye. According to NASA, the icy visitor was spotted for the first time in March 2022, while it was inside Jupiter’s orbit.
Now, stargazers in the UK may not want to miss this extremely rare opportunity, as the comet will be visible via binoculars as a tiny green glow beginning Thursday (January 19). According to scientists, it will come closest to Earth on February 2 and will hang around for a month.
NASA said on its blog: "Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot. It’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies."
The icy celestial body - called C/2022 E3 (ZTF), according to NASA - is making its closest approach to the sun on January 12 before making its closest approach to Earth on February 2. The Planetary Society said at that point, it will be just about 26 million miles (42 million kilometres) away from the planet.
For those in the Northern Hemisphere without a telescope, the Planetary Society said the comet will appear like a "faint, greenish smudge in the sky", while those with a telescope could see the comet’s dramatic visible tail.
NASA said observers in the Northern Hemisphere will find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves swiftly toward the northwest during January. It will then become visible in the Southern Hemisphere in early February.
However, NASA said the comet isn’t expected to be as much of a “spectacle” as Comet NEOWISE spotted in 2020, which was deemed to be the brightest comet visible from the Northern Hemisphere since 1997.
It said: “This comet isn’t expected to be quite the spectacle that Comet NEOWISE was back in 2020. But it’s still an awesome opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system.”