How to see this week the green comet that passes every 50,000 years

How to see this week the green comet that passes every 50,000 years

Aerial view of the 'green kite' / Archive

The last time it came close to Earth, Neanderthals populated our planet.

Elena Martin Lopez

This week we are visited by a comet from the outer Solar System. It is called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and has been nicknamed the 'green comet'. It was discovered on March 2, 2022 by astronomers Bryce Bolin and Frank Masci, when it was 640 million kilometers from the Sun, using the wide-field camera of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), in the United States (hence the acronym of his name).

According to what is known about it, the comet completes its orbit every 50,000 years, which means that the last time it came close to Earth was during the Paleolithic, the time of the Neanderthals. It has been approaching our planet for days and being observed by ground-based telescopes around the world. This Wednesday, February 1, it will be at its closest point to us, although it can be observed throughout the month, each day a little dimmer.

Since it is not much brighter than the stars we see when looking up at the sky and since our satellite will be close to the full moon phase and its light will make it difficult to see, the best time to observe it is when the moon has already set. For this reason, to increase our chances of seeing it, it is advisable to use "a small telescope, or better some binoculars, and look to the north," they point out from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. As with other astronomical events, the further away you are from light pollution, the better, and you don't need to be very high up.

The comet will be traveling at a speed of around 206,000 kilometers per hour relative to our planet, NASA data shows. The good news is that we will be able to enjoy the event without any fear because, as Josep M. Trigo, principal investigator of the Group of Meteorites, Minor Bodies and Planetary Sciences of the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE - CSIC) points out, in an article in The Conversation: "Fortunately, these fast-moving visitors have plenty of space between planets to spread their tails and surprise humans without posing any danger."