Not since Neanderthals roamed the earth did this bright green comet streak across the sky and now, 50,000 years later, earthlings in 2023 may get to see this rare event — possibly with the naked eye.
The comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will reach its perihelion, the closest point to the sun, on Jan. 12, according to federal space officials. It will be within 100 million miles of the star at this point, reported KXAN.
It added: “On Feb. 2, it will be about 26 million miles from Earth, the closest it has been since the Upper Paleolithic era. This is the epoch of human history when Homo sapiens are believed to have left Africa and settled in Asia and Europe.”
NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said it will be difficult to determine how bright the comet will be. The federal agency indicated the comet will get brighter, and vivid green, as it gets closer.
According to space.com, the comet could be visible to the naked eye.
The site pointed to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory which says that skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to spot the comet in dark skies when there is little moonlight, such as when the new moon rises on Jan. 21.
The comet, discovered last year, was initially thought to be an asteroid. As time went on, the cloud of ice and dust surrounding it began to tell a different story and by December, experts knew it to be a comet.
To look at the comet at perihelion, the Virtual Telescope Project is hosting a free livestream of comet C/2022 E3 ZTF starting at 9 p.m. MST on Jan. 12 (0400 GMT on Jan. 13). You can watch the live webcast courtesy of the project’s website or on its YouTube channel.