A bright green comet will appear in the night sky over Earth, visible for the first time in 50,000 years.
The recently discovered comet, catchily named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will be closest to the Sun on January 12 and become visible in the northern hemisphere’s morning sky.
In Australia, however, it will be visible from early February when it makes its next Earth flyby on February 2, when it will be just 42 million kilometers away.
Comets can be distinguished from stars by their streaking tails of dust and energetic particles – making this one glow bright green. The glow is caused by a shell tightening around the comet as it sweeps past the Sun, and its icy exterior instantly turns to gas.
Discovered by astronomers in March last year using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in southern California, the comet passes through the farthest reaches of the solar system each time it orbits the sun — which is why it takes so long to fly by Earth again.
It last appeared over our blue planet about 50,000 years ago, when only two million people roamed the planet and our ancestors, the Neanderthals, were not yet extinct.
NASA says the comet — while notoriously unpredictable — got steadily brighter as it neared the Sun and should be easy to spot with binoculars.
If we’re lucky, it can even become visible to the naked eye in dark skies, NASA said.
Originally released as Green Comet to become visible for the first time in 50,000 years