How to See the Rare Green Comet That’s Passing Earth This Week
I have a super distinct memory of the Hale-Bopp that was visible for a few months during 1997. I was 16 at the time and my friends and I piled into cars and drove to the outer parts of San Diego County so we could get away from light pollution and see the comet in all its luminance. It was such a cool thing to see.
This week folks have the opportunity to view another comet rare comet and create memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
How rare is this comet? Apparently it hasn’t been in our neck of the woods since 50,000 years ago, meaning the last humans who saw it lived in the Stone Age.
According to Amanda Bartlett at SF Gate, “Dubbed C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the comet was first discovered in Jupiter’s orbit last March by astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, and named after the Zwicky Transient Facility where it was identified.”
The comet will be closest to Earth on February 1st.
Apparently it’s rather common for comets to appear blue or green when viewed from Earth. According to this Kellie Hwang story in the Chronicle, “Comets are made up of several different kinds of ice, he said. As they approach the sun, the ice heats up and turns to gas, which forms the comet’s tail. Some forms of comet ice contain carbon compounds that in gas form appear greenish or bluish as they reflect sunlight.”
How to See the Comet
According to experts, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be closest to Earth and its brightest on February 1st. It will most likely be visible for a few days before and after the 1st as well. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) also sounds like the name of one of Elon Musk’s kids.
Gerald McKeegan, an adjunct astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, is quoted in the Chronicle piece saying “From a very dark sky location, it may be visible to the naked eye, but for most locations, observers will need binoculars or a small telescope.”
You should be able to see it with binoculars or a small telescope until the end of February.
To find the comet, look in the northeastern sky after 9 p.m. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will continue to get higher each day and will be almost directly above the North Star at around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
As the SF Gate article points out, you can also go to a few specialized places in the Bay Area to see the comet.
Foothill College and the Peninsula Astronomical Society are hosting a Comet C/2022 E3-focused event at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Foothill Observatory. The comet will also be visible during regular Friday night viewings from 9 to 11 p.m. through the end of February.
Chabot Space Center hosts free telescope viewing in its three observatories on Fridays and Saturdays, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m
Happy comet hunting folks!