Comet last seen 50,000 years ago makes an appearance again
A newly discovered comet that made its closest approach to the sun on Wednesday, may have last visited the inner solar system during the Stone Age!
Early humans and even Neanderthals may have been the last eyes to gaze on this beauty. This comet is known as Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) – or ZTF E3 for short. It made its way around the sun and is now heading closer to Earth. From now through February, it will become brighter and visible in our morning sky.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) (Credit: NASA/Dan Bartlett)
The comet is not naked eye yet and requires an aide like a telescope or binoculars. Some hope over the next couple of weeks, it could become even brighter. It will make its closest approach to Earth on Feb. 1, 2023 at just 28 million miles. It is currently seen during the pre-dawn hours, but by February it’s possible it may be seen at night in a really dark moonless sky.
This may just be the brightest comet of the year. It was discovered in March of 2022 by two astronomers in Southern California, Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin. At that time, the comet was out near Jupiter’s orbit but it was extremely dim. It has now made its way around the sun and eventually it will pass by Earth. The sun’s heat will “melt” the comet and help it become brighter.
NASA chart showing the orbital path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) as it passes Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
After plenty of observing and research, the comet’s orbit was calculated to be roughly 50,000 years. The type of orbit it has may also mean this could be its last trip through our inner solar system.
Let’s hope for the best with the weather, always looking for dark clear skies which have been tough to come by lately.