Green comet: Here’s how to see C/2022 E3 as it passes by Earth

A comet that last passed by Earth about 50,000 years ago is coming around again and will make its closest pass on 2 February, at which point it may be visible with the naked eye


25 January 2023

Comet C/2022 E3

Comet C/2022 E3

Dan Bartlett/NASA

A rare green comet is about to make its closest pass by Earth. The comet, called C/2022 E3, spends most of its time on the outermost edges of the solar system, in the Oort cloud, but it will make its closest pass by Earth on 2 February.

The close pass will bring the comet within about 45 million kilometres of Earth, about 120 times the distance between Earth and the moon or about one-fifth the average distance to Mars. It only orbits the sun once every 50,000 years or so, so its last pass by our home planet was in the Stone Age, when humans still coexisted with Neanderthals.

Those early humans may have been able to see C/2022 E3 in the sky, and it is expected to be possible with this pass too, in areas in the northern hemisphere with little light pollution. It is located near the constellation Boötes, just to the east of the Little Dipper, and on 1 and 2 February it might be visible with the naked eye. With a telescope, binoculars or a camera with the option for an extended exposure, it is expected to remain visible through the middle of the month before it slips away back towards the Oort cloud.

C/2022 E3 was first spotted by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility in California in March 2022, when it came into the solar system past the orbit of Jupiter. Its coma, the cloud of gas surrounding the main body, or nucleus, of the comet, appears green because of carbon gas. It’s not just any carbon, though – it is a relatively rare type called diatomic carbon, which consists of two carbon atoms bound together.

Once the strange comet leaves Earth’s neighbourhood, some observations have hinted that it might be travelling fast enough that it will end up leaving the solar system altogether, or have its orbit bumped around by the gravity of the planets so that it won’t pass by again for millions of years. This may be the last chance to spot it.

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Source link In the early hours of morning on April 22, 2021, a rare, green comet known as C/2022 E3 is set to pass by Earth. This spectacular cosmic event is sure to be a sight to behold, so how can you ensure you don’t miss it?

For starters, the best time to spot C/2022 E3 will be in the early morning hours, after sunrise, on April 22. Look to the east and be sure to be on the lookout between 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise. To help locate the comet, use a pair of binoculars or telescope, and the constellation Leo should be easily visible in the same area.

At its brightest, C/2022 E3 will be fairly easy to pick up with binoculars, and at around magnitude 5, it should be bright enough to be seen, even in light-polluted areas. The tail will be broad, representing a striking green hue with a dust surround.

The green color of the comet is caused by diatomic carbon which is released from the comet nucleus when it gets close to the sun. This produces a luminous green gas that outlines the coma and the tail.

The comet’s ‘stars’ are set to remain in the morning sky for the rest of April and then into May. It will also swing by Mars and Mercury later this year, and a trip to the Great Red Planet will be an interesting sight to behold.

Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe a rare green comet in full effect – on April 22, get those binoculars or telescope out, and gaze to the skies.

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