Eleven months since its discovery, comet C/2022 E3, last seen 48,000 years ago, will be the closest it has been to planet Earth on Wednesday and Thursday since the Ice Age.
The comet, described as having a “brighter greenish coma, short broad dust tail, and long faint ion tail stretching across a 2.5 degree wide field-of-view,” reached its perihelion, or the point at which it’s closest to the Sun, on Jan. 12 and is expected to reach its perigee, the point closest to Earth, on Feb. 1, NASA reported. It has had people hunting out since mid-January in hopes of getting a mere glance at the “once-in-a-civilization” comet.
E3 has seemingly made its round through the Northern Hemisphere but will still be visible in the Southern Hemisphere, KXAN reported.
A timelapse from 30 minutes of #comet C/2022 E3 ZTF passing through the northern skies. It’s very dim, made visible here by 4-second exposures. pic.twitter.com/nMRvwakKmb
— Ross McLendon (@rossmclendon) January 21, 2023
“Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) told NBC7. (RELATED: Comet Not Seen Since The Stone Age Will Fly Through The Sky In ‘Once-In-A-Civilization’ Event)
Employees at the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), named after Caltech astronomer Fritz Zwicky, first discovered the comet as it passed through Jupiter’s orbit in March 2022, according to the outlet.
Once the comet passes by Earth, it will launch back into deep space, unlikely to return, Space.com noted.