Look to the Night Sky to Catch a Rare Sight: A Green Comet

When we look up to the dark night sky and see a streak of light dance across, we can’t help but feel awed by the wonders of this universe. If these wonders intrigue you, keep your eyes peeled as you might see something truly spectacular. Feb. 2, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the celestial body C/2022 E3 (ZTF), a rare green comet.

As comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is nearing Earth it is becoming increasingly brighter. This mass of ice and organic material will reach its closest point to Earth on Feb. 1 and 2, passing the Earth at 26 million miles away. If you’re not able to view this spectacle outside, you can watch the comet live online. The Virtual Telescope Project will broadcast the comet on their website or their YouTube channel, making it possible for anyone to view.

What makes this particular comet so rare?

Astronomers and skywatchers are excited to see this once-in-a-lifetime event. The rarity of this celestial body is due to it being a long-term comet, only seen soaring past Earth every 50,000 years. Alongside this, the comet also possesses a unique, green hue. According to a statement from NASA, “The green glow is the comet’s coma, caused by glowing carbon gas.”

Where to look for the green comet

If you are interested in viewing the comet look northeast into the sky after midnight or early in the morning to catch sight of it as it passes Earth. The comet will be visible with the naked eye, but try binoculars or even a telescope if you have one. Keep in mind that the brightness and air pollution of cities may affect visibility.

What do Palmetto students think about the green comet?

Palmetto student Nevan Nadeau said he is, “excited to see the green comet,” and has “never seen anything like that before.” C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a very rare spectacle that even non-skywatchers are excited to see. Palmetto student Alayna Funk said she hasn’t heard of this comet but has viewed others in the past. “It’s the little things that remind us how tiny we are,” Funk said when asked why she enjoys skywatching.