A green comet will soon be visible from Earth for the first time in 50,000 years.
Comets are cosmic snowballs made of frozen gases, rock and dust that orbit the Sun.
Best known for their long, streaming tails, these ancient objects are leftovers from the formation of the solar system more than 4 billion years ago.
Comet C/2022 E3 will be visible to the naked eye, providing the conditions above remain clear.
Find out more about the green comet below…
The last time it passed Earth was during the last Ice Age, and it won’t be seen again for another 50,000 years – when it restarts its orbit around the sun.
It was first spotted in March 2022 as it was passing Jupiter’s orbit.
At its closest point to Earth, Comet E3 will pass within 42 million kilometres (26 million miles) of our planet – and it’s travelled around 4.5 trillion kilometres over the last 50,000 years.
To get the best view of the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, it is advised that you go somewhere with as little light pollution as possible.
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The best time to view the comet will be on February 2 at around 4am GMT in the UK or 3pm ACT in Australia.
If you’re in the US, that’s 11pm EST, 10pm CST or 8pm PST on February 1.
The Royal Observatory also suggest that you should give yourself 15 minutes to allow your eyes to adapt to the darkness so that they become sensitive in the dark.
However, they also advise that you should avoid using your phone during this time, but if you are to use it, make sure that you switch on the red night vision mode feature in the app.
Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, says: “If you’re lucky, you’ll see a hint of the tail coming off it, so it’ll look more like a classic comet.”
One of the scientists that discovered the comet, Bryce Bolin, told the Boston Globe that he reckons it will look like a white smudge in the sky just north of the Little Dipper constellation.
He explains: “Comets are the cats of the solar system; they do whatever they want.
“Like cats they have fluffiness. Comets have been observed to have peculiar behaviours, like fragmenting or disintegrating.
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“But there is not really a strong correlation between the distance to the sun and the kind of disintegration events that occur.
“It could break apart on its way in before it ever comes close to the sun, or even after.”
He also said that he ‘secretly hopes it will disintegrate since ‘that’s where the most interesting science is’.
Here’s my first effort at capturing the “Green Comet”, Comet c/2022 E3 (ZTF). This was a particular challenge due to humid conditions and clouds, but I’m thrilled I was able to capture it at all! pic.twitter.com/t2VGEnfKX8
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) January 19, 2023
Comet E3 earnt its nickname of the ‘green comet’ due to its bright green glow that is around its nucleus, which is due to the effect of sunlight on its molecules.
The green comet was first spotted in March 2022 at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, which is why the acronym ZTF features in its name.
It made its first pass on Earth on January 12 and has been getting closer and closer ever since.
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