Austin, Texas (KXAN) — This month, skygazers will be treated to a once-in-a-civilization sight: a green comet called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) approaching Earth.
The comet, which last passed our solar system just over 50,000 years ago, will reach perihelion (or its closest point to the sun) on January 1. 12, when it will be 100 million miles from the sun, according to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
the feb. 2, the comet will only be about 26 million miles from Earth. This is the closest it has come since the Upper Paleolithic era, a time in human history when Homo sapiens are believed to have left Africa and settled in Asia and Europe.
To put it in perspective, Neanderthals were still walking the Earth when the comet last passed.
What will comet E3 be like?
According to NASA, predicting the brightness of a comet is difficult. NASA said that if it continues to shine, it should be visible to the naked eye. It will also be bright green.
NASA said that in the northern hemisphere, the comet will be visible in the mornings to the northwest. In February, it will move below the horizon and become visible in the southern hemisphere.
Viewers can see the comet with the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope will be the best option.
How was comet E3 discovered?
Discovered by astronomers Bryce Bolin and Frank Masci at the Zwicky Transient Facility in March 2022, Comet E3 was first seen near Jupiter. It was initially believed to be an asteroid, according to Space.com.
As it traveled closer to the sun, it became brighter. Comets do this when the sun’s heat causes frozen dust and gas to be released below the surface. Sunlight reflects off these gases, giving them the appearance of tails.
The comet was named after the place where it was discovered (ZTF) and the year it was discovered (2022). Since it was discovered in the early part of March, or the fifth “half month” of the year, it was designated E, the fifth letter of the alphabet. Ultimately, it was the third object discovered that half month, hence “E3.”
What were humans doing the last time C/2022 E3 happened?
18,930,412 days have passed since the comet last completed its orbit, according to data released by NASA’s JPL. At the time, Homo erectus, the predecessor of Homo sapiens, and Neanderthals used stone tools.
It is believed that some settlements existed in the valleys. The first bladed weapons were invented, as well as the hook and the rope.
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