February 7, 2023

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The comet visits Earth again after 50,000 years – visible to the naked eye

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Photo 252058428 © Tognarini Franco | Dreamstime.com

A comet discovered by the California Telescope in March 2022, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will pass relatively close to Earth during January 2023 and may be visible to the naked eye by the end of the month.

The comet will approach its closest point to the Sun (perihelion) on January 12, at a distance of about 160 million kilometers from it. It will then approach our planet, where it is expected to reach its closest approach (perihelion) of 42 million km on February 1 or 2.

According to the US space agency (NASA), the new moon on January 21 provides an opportunity to observe the comet in the night sky. It is estimated that the period of the comet is about 50,000 years, which means that the last time it approached Earth, Neanderthals were still alive, as did our ancestors Homo sapiens. Of course, even if they saw him, they wouldn’t understand what he was talking about.

The latest images of C/2022 E3 — which initially looked like an asteroid but then started to brighten — show it to have a distinct golden tail and a plume of bluish-greenish gas and dust. The comet is already visible with powerful telescopes and binoculars when the sky is clear in the evening.

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