A newly-detected green comet might be visible to humans from the earth through the naked eye!
When issuing its January 2023 skywatching predictions, NASA and CalTech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated that between January 12 and February 2, a green comet named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will first approach the Sun and then move back towards Earth.
In the Northern Hemisphere, skywatchers will be able to see the comet in the morning sky at the end of January. However, the ones in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see it in February.
During the new moon on January 21, when the sky will be extra-dark without the Moon’s light.
“Comets are notoriously unpredictable,” the JPL notes, “but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies.”
This rare green comet was first discovered in March 2022 using a wide-field survey camera at CalTech’s Zwicky Transient Facility within Jupiter’s orbit. Since then, it has come closer to the Sun, and as NASA noted in a post about the comet, it will reach its closest point to us on Earth, on February 1. This point is also called the perigee.
JPL data indicates that the last time the green comet came this close to Earth was around 50,000 years ago. It was probably observed by the Ice Age-era Neanderthals.
Depending on light pollution and weather, it may be tough to see C/2022 E3 (ZTF). However, it is definite that skywatchers with dedicated and expensive telephoto lenses or access to institutional telescopes will manage to get awe-inspiring shots of it.