How to see a comet that hasn’t passed Earth since the Stone Age

  • Comet C/2022 E3 is currently passing Earth for the first time in 50 000 years.
  • The comet was discovered in March 2022 at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California.
  • Astronomers in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the comet using binoculars or a telescope this weekend.

This week stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere are in for a treat as Comet C/2022 E3 passes by our planet.

The comet is notable because it was only discovered in 2022 by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California and was nicknamed the Green Comet for it’s green colour. The comet was discovered by Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin.

What makes this all the more interesting is that according to astronomers, the last time C/2022 E3 passed by Earth, some 50 000 years ago. This was around the time humans were just entering the Stone Age and we were using crude stone tools.

Since the middle of January, the comet has been observable from the Northern Hemisphere, but from the start of next month humans in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the visitor using a telescope or binoculars.

However, this isn’t a sure thing because, as NASA explains, a comet’s behaviour is tricky to predict.

If everything continues as anticipated, we should get our first glimpse of C/2022 E3 on Friday evening from 20:00 SAST onwards. Of course, this depends on a range of factors including cloud cover and how much light pollution there is around you. Oh and of course, the Moon is getting brighter round about now so that will also impact our ability to view the comet.

As EuroNews reports, the comet will appear as a “fuzzy green ball” in the sky.

While searching the skies can be fun, we highly recommend that anybody interested in seeing C/2022 E3 download a sky map or star gazing app. We made use of Stellarium which is an open-source and free app available for Android and iOS.

To find the comet simply hit search and key in C/2022 E3. You can then fast forward time to know when the comet can be observed where you are. Here in Johannesburg, the Comet will be in prime position on Saturday 4th February at around 20:00.

We can’t believe we’re about to say this, but, perhaps loadshedding will help star gazers see this comet. With large areas without power, light pollution could be lower. Finally, something good about loadshedding.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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