A comet not seen since Neanderthals roamed Earth is about to make a round trip – and astronomers have shared the first detailed image of the ‘cosmic snowball’.
Formerly known as C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the comet orbits the sun every 50,000 years and is expected to make its closest approach to our planet on February 1, 2023.
E3 was discovered in March, but scientists recently took the first detailed photo revealing its brighter greenish coma and a tail of yellowish dust.
Although the comet is too dim to be seen without a telescope, it should be visible to the naked eye when it is around 26 million kilometers away.
E3 was discovered in March, but scientists recently took the first detailed photo revealing its brighter greenish coma and a tail of yellowish dust
In early March, astronomers discovered comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) using the wide-field surveillance camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility.
Since then, the new long-period comet has brightened considerably and is now sweeping across the northern constellation of Corona Borealis in the pre-dawn sky.
The comet is currently 187 million miles from Earth and is expected to reach the sun on January 1, loop around and come closest to our planet.
And E3 will be the first comet seen with the naked eye since comet NEOWISE in July 2020.
However, NEOWISE left a long hazy tail and E3 is likely to appear as a gray streak in the night sky.
E3 should be viewable by January 26 but peak on February 1.
This comet isn’t the only cosmic display scheduled for 2023, as the year will kick off with the annual Quadrantid meteor shower and end with the impressive Geminid meteor shower in December.
The Quadrantid is one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, and you don’t need specialist equipment to see it.
While the meteor shower technically started today, it will peak on the night of January 3 and the morning of January 4.
This is an above-average rain shower, which typically sees 40 meteors pass by per hour.
At the extreme, however, up to 200 shooting stars can be seen per hour, but this depends on perfect conditions and the ideal location on Earth.
And, as 2023 draws to a close, the Geminid meteor shower will light up the skies from December 13-14.
The comet is currently 187 million kilometers from Earth and is expected to reach the sun on January 1, loop around and move closer to our planet
This comet isn’t the only cosmic display predicted for 2023, as the year will kick off with the annual Quadrantids meteor shower and end with the impressive Geminid meteor shower (pictured) in December
Meteors are mostly white but can also be yellow, green, red or blue.
While comets cause most meteor showers, the Geminid meteor shower is unique because the shower is produced when Earth passes through a trail of debris created by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon.
Head to a dark area, away from light pollution, and give your eyes at least 30 minutes to adjust to the night sky.
The Geminid meteor shower was first reported in 1862, but it wasn’t until 1983 that scientists determined that 3200 Phaethon were the source.
It’s called the Geminids because when Earth passes through the debris, it illuminates the star Castor in the constellation Gemini.
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