The last time our home planet was visited by Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), it didn’t quite look like what it does today. Although bitterly cold, early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals were doing their thing and roaming the land, spreading far and wide and leaving behind behavioural markers.
First thought to be an asteroid, the Big C was discovered by astronomers in California in March 2022. However, as it passed through the inner orbit of Jupiter on its trajectory towards the sun, it began to brighten rapidly and hasn’t stopped. It’s now visible in the sky but only in the northern hemisphere, passing through the Corona Borealis constellation in predawn skies.
Even though the comet made its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, there are still a couple of weeks before it makes its closest pass of Earth, where it will be visible in the southern hemisphere. On February 2, the comet will fly by at an impressive 42 million kilometres from home and we’ll be able to see it in Australia. In the meantime, check it out below.
Why is the comet green?
Hailing from deep outer space, this comet has been doing the rounds for a long time and over that time has built an icy exterior. The closer to the sun it gets, the more of that icy exterior turns to (burning hot?) gas.
How to best see the green comet?
To get the best views of the green comet, your best bet is to get a long-exposure photograph like the one above. Even still, you might get lucky enough to catch a brilliant glimpse of it using binoculars and small telescopes in the morning skies. Now, if you’re really lucky, there is a small chance that it’ll make an appearance in dark skies when you should be able to see it with your naked eye.