We could be the last humans to see the green comet passing Earth for the first time since the Ice Age. Here’s how, where, and when to watch it.

Ever since the previous Ice Age, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), also known as Comet ZTF, which is the term astronomers assigned to this celestial ice ball following its detection in March by the Zwicky Transient Facility, has not resided in our celestial vicinity.

Researchers have calculated that the comet’s last visit occurred during the time when Neanderthals roamed the Earth and humans had recently left Africa for the first time. This indicates that the icy celestial object, composed of gas, dust, and rock, completes an orbit around the sun approximately every 50,000 years.

There may never be an opportunity to see it again. Ancient peoples may not have spotted the comet, either with binoculars or telescopes.

Jessica Lee, an astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich, informed Newsweek that the predictions suggest that the orbit of this comet is no longer eccentric, and it is in an orbit where it will not return.

It might be worth the effort to become one of the few humans to ever see ZTF Comet up close. So, here’s what you need to know to maximize your chances.

You may need a small telescope to spot Comet ZTF, but binoculars could be enough.

As per NASA, the emerald comet was observable shortly before daybreak in late January in the Northern Hemisphere. Pictures of the verdant comet were captured by hobbyist stargazers to demonstrate what was visible.

A completely obscured new moon created perfect dark skies for observing the comet on January 21.

If you missed your last best chance to see the comet in the Northern Hemisphere on Monday, around January when ZTF was between the Big Dipper and the North Star,

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The comet may still be seen in the night sky, as it is burning very brightly. Its brightness is so intense that it can still be observed in the night sky. This is almost 109 times farther than the average distance of the moon. According to EarthSky, the comet will come closest to Earth in millions of years, at a distance of approximately 26 million miles, similar to the Stone Age. It will be visible in the Southern Hemisphere on February 1 and February 2, as stated by EarthSky.

As per the Adler Planetarium, the comet will appear as “the dimmest an entity can be observed without the use of optical assistance in an exceptionally unclouded, extremely dark sky,” despite the moon’s luminosity, with the comet anticipated to reach its peak brightness on January 31 and February 1.

If you are attempting to identify success, it is crucial to prepare yourself adequately.

How to identify the emerald comet

The approaching Comet ZTF may be visible to viewers, even those using only their naked eye or binoculars, but initially spotting it may require the use of a telescope.

If this trend continues, it will be possible to spot it with binoculars, as the skies become visible to the naked eye under dark and unaided conditions. However, comets are notoriously unpredictable. NASA wrote an update on December 29 about this.

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For the best viewing experience of the darkest skies, choose a cloudless night and position yourself far from city lights to see the moon when it is at its dimmest, or even when it is below the horizon, the sky will be possible darker.

If you are in an urban area, the brightness of the lights might overpower the visibility of the comet, therefore, it would be advisable to carry binoculars or even a telescope.

Where to search in the nighttime celestial sphere for comet ZTF

According to EarthSky.Org, on January 30, the comet will be visible in the vicinity of the star and will pass below the North Star, Polaris, at the tip of the Little Dipper. To see the green comet, look to the stars directly to the right of Polaris. As it approaches Polaris, it will appear earlier in the evening.

FOX Weather informed Prince Thomas, the director of the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech, that it will be able to distinguish itself from other stars by providing a slightly blurred appearance.

To spot the comet, simply scan the surrounding area and try to locate Mars gleaming prominently in the celestial expanse. According to Prince, if you extend your arm and measure the distance with your pinky finger, the comet will be approximately 1.5 degrees away from Mars on February 10 in the Southern Hemisphere.

EarthSky releases maps to assist you in locating the reference entities — Hercules, Polaris, and Mars — in the nighttime celestial sphere.

What causes the comet to appear green

According to NASA, the comet displays a “greenish coma, compact wide dust tail, and extensive faint ion tail.”

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The research Laboratory has linked this aura to a reactive molecule called dicarbon, which emits a light green glow as it decays sunlight. Many comets exhibit this green glow.

Carbon dioxide is common in comets, but it’s not typically found in their tails.

The reason is that the tail stays white, but the coma – the mist enveloping the frozen gas, dust, and rock sphere at the core of a comet – is emitting a green glow.

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