A recently discovered comet will appear in the skies in the coming days for the first time in 50,000 years. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be easily identified by the green ‘stain’ it will leave when observed, and it will also be possible to observe this phenomenon in Portugal.
The green comet in question was discovered in March last year by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in California, USA, using a camera from the Zwicky Transient Facility project. This comet will have its perihelion (point of orbit closest to the sun) on the night of January 12th to 13th, when it will be more easily visible in the Northern Hemisphere, according to NASA.
The C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has an orbit around the Sun that passes through the outside of our Solar System, which explains the long path, and consequently the long time it takes, to pass by Earth, explains the Planetary Society.
Currently, with binoculars or telescopes, it is already possible to observe the phenomenon in the skies, if you look northwest before sunrise. Without a telescope, it will appear as a green spot, so if you don’t have the proper observation equipment, you won’t see the ‘dramatic’ effect of the comet’s green tail. Still, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which only passes Earth once every 50,000 years.
As the skies in Portugal are expected to be cloudy over the next few days, weather conditions could make it difficult to observe the comet.
But don’t be discouraged now: the celestial object made of ice has increased in brightness as it passes by the sun and will have its closest point of passage by Earth between February 1 and 2, being 42 million kilometers from our planet , so until then you will have the opportunity to observe the C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in all its splendor. On this day of closer passage, you will be able to see it close to the Polar Star, but earlier, during dawn.
For those in the southern hemisphere trying to observe the comet, you will only be able to do so from late January to mid-February.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be easily distinguished from stars by its ‘comb’ of dust and particles, which emit a green glow. This ‘hair’ results from the fact that, as the comet approaches the sun, the ice that composes it begins to sublimate into gas, appearing that the object is ‘blurred’ when observed.