A comet discovered Wednesday may be apparent to the naked eye as it moves through the Sun and the Earth in the coming weeks for the very first time in 50,000 years.
The comet is named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) following the Zwicky Transient Facility, which initially spotted it passing Jupiter in March last year.
Once it travels out of the icy reaches of our Solar System, it is going to come closest to sunlight on January 12 and pass closest to the environment on February 1.
It is going to be simple to spot using a pair of binoculars and probably despite having the naked eye, provided the sky isn’t insanely lit by city lights or the Moon.
The comet “will be most brilliant whenever it’s closest to the Earth”, Thomas Prince, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology who is employed at the Zwicky Transient Facility, reported AFP.
Constructed of dust and ice and generating a greenish tinge, the comet is thought to have a diameter of about a kilometer (0.62 miles), said Nicolas Biver, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory.
That makes it considerably smaller compared to NEOWISE, the last comet seen with an unaided eye, which passed Earth in March 2020, and also Hale-Bopp, that swept by in 1997 with a likely life-ending diameter of more or less 60 kilometers.
However Biver stated the next go to is going to come closer to Earth, which “may compensate for the fact that it’s not so large.’
The comet is very brilliant in early February when it passes through the Earth, though a full moon might make locating it hard.
Biver recommended the final week of January for the Northern Hemisphere once the comet moves in between the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
The new moon over the weekend of Jan 21-22 provides a good possibility for stargazers, he said.
“We might obtain a pleasant surprise as well as the item might be two times as bright as anticipated,’ Biver said.
He pointed out that an additional chance to find the comet will show up in the skies on February 10 as it passes close to Mars.
‘Rare visitor’ The comet has spent much of its life “at least 2,500 times farther away than the Earth is from the Sun”, Prince said.
The comet is believed to have originated from the Oort Cloud, a theorized great sphere surrounding the Solar System which is home to mysterious icy objects.
The last time the comet visited the earth was during top of the Paleolithic, when Neanderthals were still roaming the Earth.
Prince stated the comet’s subsequent trip to the inner Solar System was likely in another 50,000 years.
There’s a chance that the comet is going to be ejected out of the Solar system following this visit, Biver said.
The James Webb Space Telescope is going to be among the tools which will be closely monitored. It won’t take pictures, instead, “studying the comet’s structure,’ Biver said.
“As sunlight boils from its outer layers, because the comet gets nearer to the earth, it gets simpler to assess its composition,” Prince said.
“This unusual visitor will provide us with information regarding the inhabitants of our Solar system well outside of the most distant planets,” he stated.