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a green comet in sky
Photograph: Luis Felipe Alburquerque Briganti/ Pexels

A once-in-a-lifetime green comet is set to appear in Australian skies

It was last seen on Earth 50,000 years ago, way back when Neanderthals roamed the planet

Written by
Leah Glynn
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Clear your schedule for early February, folks – you're not going to want to miss this. A bright green comet that last flew past Earth 50,000 years ago (yes, that's a really long time ago) is returning to our skies once again.

Named ‘C/2022 E3 (ZTF)’ (catchy, right?), this vividly green comet with two brilliant tails is seriously ancient, having travelled through space for tens of thousands of years before making its way back into our lil' solar system. As of January 13, it has come within 160 million kilometres of the sun, but it's set to make its closest approach to Earth on February 2. That's when it will be within a mere 42 million kilometres from us earthlings, making it visible to all of us in Melbourne and the southern hemisphere for the first time since the Stone Age – woah.

This icy giant was first discovered by astronomers in California in March 2022, and has reportedly travelled to us from the furthest reaches of outer space. It's said to be steadily brightening as it travels closer to the sun, and its vibrant green colour is due to the glowing green coma that surrounds it – because, as it passes the sun, the comet’s ancient icy exterior immediately turns to gas, meaning you’ll get a clearer picture of it through long-exposure photographs than binoculars or small telescopes. 

For all of us Down Under, astronomers have advised that early February will be the best time to get a good look at it through binoculars in the morning sky. NASA also says that, if we’re lucky, we could even get a glimpse of it in dark skies with our naked eye. And if it's looking cloudy outside, never fear: you can still see the green comet make its pass via this free webcast.

Don't forget to look up. The next time this glowing green ball of dust and ice will pass us by will be in another 50,000 years. 

Looking for a good spot to see the comet? This is where you can go stargazing in Melbourne

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