Speed Reads

eyes on the skies

Comet to make first appearance since Neanderthal times

The new year is bringing in a new comet! At the end of the month, green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be visible to the naked eye for the first time since the Neanderthal times, Space.com writes. 

The comet was discovered by researchers in March and is approximately 100 million miles away from Earth, Newsweek reports. It is expected to make its closest pass to the sun on Jan. 12 and the closest pass to Earth at the beginning of February. As it gets closer to Earth, the more likely it can be seen without binoculars or a telescope, NASA explains. 

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is known as a long-period comet, meaning its orbit is very large, reports CBS News. "Countless more unknown long-period comets have never been seen by human eyes," writes NASA. "Some have orbits so long that the last time they passed through the inner solar system, our species did not yet exist." 

While scientists predict that the comet will be bright enough to see with the naked eye, there is no guarantee. It is "notoriously hard" to predict comet brightness according to Tania de Sales Marques, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. This is because they don't emit their own light.

It is recommended to view the comet when the moon is dim in the sky, like during a new moon. "It's still an awesome opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system," said Preston Dyches from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.