In once-in-a-lifetime news (quite literally), a bright green comet that was last seen on Earth when the Neanderthals roamed the planet is making a triumphant return to Australia's skies, and will be most visible between February 5 and 11, 2023.
Last seen by Earth’s inhabitants 50,000 years ago, this vividly green comet with two brilliant tails is deeply ancient, having travelled through space for tens and thousands of years before, only now, making its way into our inner solar system. The comet (dubbed a cute ‘C/2022 E3 (ZTF)’ by the experts) has now come within its closest point of the sun, and is passing through our skies at a point that is now visible to the naked human eye in some dark sky areas. As of February 3, it has come within a sweet 42 million kilometres from us earthlings, marking its closest distance to us Earthlings since the Stone Age.
The comet will be visible to Aussies looking up from February 1 to February 11, and will be most visible to Sydneysiders from February 5 to February 11, with the advice being to look up on the night of February 11 when it will rise within a degree of Mars, making it easier for you to find. Despite all the hype, it should be noted that unless you're in a very dark spot, or have the right equipment, it will be hard for you to get a good look at the comet with just your naked eye as it comes by. Your best bet is to grab a pair of binoculars, with experts saying that the best time to see it being in the early morning sky, or to strategically work out where it will be by looking up, and scanning the heavens for a fuzzy patch of moving light.
This all being said, if you want to absolutely make sure you don't miss out on seeing this incredible celestial event, your safest strategy is to watch it online. The Virtual Telescope Project will be live-streaming the comet's ascent, and you can join it right here.
Having been discovered by astronomers in California in March 2022, this giant, icy comet has reportedly travelled to us from the furthest reaches of outer space, and it's said to be steadily brightening as it travels closer to the sun. Its brilliant 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. Dust off those tripods, and you could possibly snag an amazing shot just like these.
Don't forget to look up. The next time this icy giant will pass us by will be in another 50,000 years.