A comet that swung past Earth when human civilization did not exist and ancient human ancestors lived on Earth will be visible to the unaided eye in January 2023.
An ancient comet that approached our planet when an ancient human ancestor called the Neanderthals lived on Earth will be visible again in 2023. The comet, which has an extended orbital motion around the sun, taking it 50,00 years to make one complete revolution, will be visible from Earth with the naked eye. In fact, according to the newest calculations of the comet’s trajectory, the last time the comet “swung by,” Earth was very different than it is today. Civilization, as we know it, did not exist. The Sahara, as we see it today, was very different. It had a tropical climate and was home to countless different species. The last time the comet swung past Earth was when mammoths and other exotic animals walked the Earth.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
The comet dubbed C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in March of 2022. It is expected to reach its closest point to our solar systems host star on January 12, 2023. This is called the perihelion. The comet is expected to be visible to the unaided eye from Earth. This is because of a phenomenon known as degassing. Since comets are technically frozen balls of ice, the gases trapped inside the comet evaporate as they move around the sun. This evaporation and dust particles create a tail, or sometimes several tails that appear begin the comet. Light from the sun is reflected off these particles, and this is what we see when we observe a comet.
The comet is already visible
The comet is already visible with a telescope or a pair of binoculars. To see it, wake up in the early morning hours before dawn, and turn your telescope to the constellation known as Corona Borealis. The comet is expected to get brighter and brighter over the next few weeks. Astronomers predict it to be visible to the naked eye around the second half of January. The comet is expected to reach its peak brightness in the first week of February. If you want to observe it, do it before the full Moon on February 6. The comet will return in some 50,000 years.
*The featured image shows comet Leonard.