Here’s when and how to notice it

This image, taken from the NASA website on January 6, 2022, shows Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by astronomers in early March this year using the Zwicky Transient Facility’s Wide Field Survey Camera. – A newly discovered comet is currently passing through our solar system for the first time in 50,000 years and may be visible to the naked eye as it zooms past Earth and the Sun in the coming weeks, astronomers say. After traveling from the icy fringes of our solar system, it will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and will approach Earth on February 1. (Photo by Dan Bartlett / NASA / AFP) / LIMITED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / NASA / Dan Bartlett” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A CUSTOMER SERVICE (Photo by DAN BARTLETT/NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

DAN BARTLETT/NASA/AFP via Getty

Trust us, you won’t want to miss it!

A remarkable display of extraterrestrials is expected in January this year in Earth’s skies thanks to a newly discovered comet making its first appearance in about 50,000 years.

With such a long orbital period, the comet – scientifically named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), according to NASA – will probably never be sighted by Earthlings again! In fact, the last time this particular comet traveled through the inner solar system was reportedly during the Upper Paleolithic or older Stone Age.

Therefore, if you want to have something to do with Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, you will want to go outside and look at the night sky. Moreover, C/2022 E3 compares tantalizingly with other comets.

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Although it apparently consists mostly of frozen gases that heat up and brighten as it heads towards the Sun, recent images show this comet with a much more exciting appearance than this description: it is a distinct greenish color with two tails!

The comet was first discovered by astronomers using a wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in early March last year. Since then, the long-period comet has brightened, allowing telescope users to detect its unique hue.

Now, as C/2022 E3 heads towards perigee (closest point to Earth) on February 1, people will have a chance to spot the comet at perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) earlier – so in the meantime, keep scrolling to find out when and how take a look.

When was Comet C/2022 E3 discovered?

This image, taken from the NASA website on January 6, 2022, shows Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by astronomers in early March this year using the Zwicky Transient Facility's Wide Field Survey Camera.  - A newly discovered comet is currently passing through our solar system for the first time in 50,000 years and may be visible to the naked eye as it zooms past Earth and the Sun in the coming weeks, astronomers say.  After traveling from the icy fringes of our solar system, it will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and will approach Earth on February 1.  (Photo by Dan Bartlett / NASA / AFP) / LIMITED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT

This image, taken from the NASA website on January 6, 2022, shows Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by astronomers in early March this year using the Zwicky Transient Facility’s Wide Field Survey Camera. – A newly discovered comet is currently passing through our solar system for the first time in 50,000 years and may be visible to the naked eye as it zooms past Earth and the Sun in the coming weeks, astronomers say. After traveling from the icy fringes of our solar system, it will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and will approach Earth on February 1. (Photo by Dan Bartlett / NASA / AFP) / LIMITED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / NASA / Dan Bartlett” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A CUSTOMER SERVICE (Photo by DAN BARTLETT/NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

DAN BARTLETT/NASA/AFP via Getty

Comet C/2022 E3 was first discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility, a public-private partnership dedicated to the systematic study of the optical night sky. ZTF scans the entire northern sky every two days with a camera with an extremely wide field of view.

In March 2022, comet C/2022 E3 was detected – but interestingly, the comet was originally identified as an asteroid. Its true cometary nature was eventually detected by brightening rapidly as it moved from Jupiter’s inner orbit through the solar system.

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When will Comet C/2022 E3 be visible from Earth?

Comet C/2022 E3 will be visible from Earth when it reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) on Thursday, January 12, 2023. Northern hemisphere skygazers should look near the northeastern horizon just before midnight (around 11:00 AM). :18 pm EST) to spot it, according to In the Sky.

Where will comet C/2022 E3 appear in the sky?

Photo taken in Arandelovac, Serbia

Photo taken in Arandelovac, Serbia

Getty Images/EyeEm

According to NASA, comet C/2022 E3 has been passing through the northern constellation Corona Borealis since its first discovery, but now as it approaches the sun, NASA notes that it will continue to move northwest throughout January. As for the southern hemisphere, the comet will become visible to sky watchers in early February 2023 as it continues its journey towards Earth.

Although the comet is expected to be visible to the naked eye, its brightness is unpredictable – so it is suggested that binoculars and telescopes better guarantee a glimpse of this fantastic phenomenon.

Don’t have the right equipment? Don’t be afraid! The Virtual Telescope project will host a free live stream of the display at 11 p.m. EST on January 12 on the project website or on its YouTube channel.

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What will comet C/2022 E3 look like?

This image, taken from the NASA website on January 6, 2022, shows Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by astronomers in early March this year using the Zwicky Transient Facility's Wide Field Survey Camera.  - A newly discovered comet is currently passing through our solar system for the first time in 50,000 years and may be visible to the naked eye as it zooms past Earth and the Sun in the coming weeks, astronomers say.  After traveling from the icy fringes of our solar system, it will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and will approach Earth on February 1.  (Photo by Dan Bartlett / NASA / AFP) / LIMITED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT

This image, taken from the NASA website on January 6, 2022, shows Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by astronomers in early March this year using the Zwicky Transient Facility’s Wide Field Survey Camera. – A newly discovered comet is currently passing through our solar system for the first time in 50,000 years and may be visible to the naked eye as it zooms past Earth and the Sun in the coming weeks, astronomers say. After traveling from the icy fringes of our solar system, it will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and will approach Earth on February 1. (Photo by Dan Bartlett / NASA / AFP) / LIMITED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / NASA / Dan Bartlett” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A CUSTOMER SERVICE (Photo by DAN BARTLETT/NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

DAN BARTLETT/NASA/AFP via Getty

Although recent images show Comet C/2022 E3 with a distinct greenish color and two tails, don’t expect to see the same thing with the naked eye. These were long exposure photos, meaning the color and noticeable tail captured by the camera are deceptive to the naked eye.

If spotted, the comet is expected to take on a circular cloud-like shape with a brighter center and a faint dust tail – compared to other comets, which tend to be brighter and more elongated. But, like any celestial spectacle, the moon plays a large part in the visibility of the comet.

Since the moon was recently full on January 7, its illumination is likely to make observing the comet difficult — but as the new moon phase approaches on January 21, the perfect dark sky needed to spot C/2022 E3 is expected to be provided.

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