First Time In 50,000 Years: Rare Green Comet Appearing To Earth Tonight

For the first time in roughly 50,000 years, back in the Neanderthal Age, a rare green comet will be seen from Earth as it hurtles through space orbiting the sun on Wednesday night.

About 26.4 million miles from Earth, Comet C/2022 E3, which was discovered last March by astronomers at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego, will leave a trail of dust behind it as appears near the constellation Camelopardalis toward the northeast. Since its discovery, the comet has grown brighter as it has crossed the northern constellation Corona Borealis.

“The comet is in the north of our skies, currently close to Polaris, the pole star directly due north,” Jake Foster of the Royal Observatory explained to The Guardian. “The comet is best viewed after midnight, when it reaches its highest point in the sky. It will move a significant distance across the sky from night to night as it makes its way towards the constellation of Taurus over the coming weeks. With a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, you should be able to spot the comet as a faint green blob. It you are lucky and your skies are particularly dark you may even be able to see one of its vast tails, too.”

“While it may yet become possible to see it with the unaided eye from an extremely dark site, you are much better off pointing a pair of binoculars or a small telescope at it,” Dr Greg Brown of the Royal Observatory Greenwich cautioned. “Easiest to see will be the brighter head of the comet, but, if you are lucky, you may spot one of its two tails sweeping out from it, each made of material being jettisoned from its rapidly warming icy surface.”

Planetary scientist Stefanie Milam of NASA, noting that NASA will study the comet with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), said, “We’re going to be looking for the fingerprints of given molecules that we can’t access from the ground. Because JWST’s so sensitive, we’re expecting new discoveries.”

The green color of the comet comes as a result of sunlight and carbon-based molecules in the ice and dust encircling the comet.

Comets typically come from the Oort cloud at the solar system’s edge, farther even than the Kuiper Belt, and is thought to consist of a icy space debris that forms a giant spherical shell that surrounds the solar system. Billions or trillions of objects can be contained within it.

But as comets approach the sun, they melt, triggering gas and dust to be released from their surface by solar radiation and plasma; that then creates the “tail.”

In the case of Comet C/2022 E3, some experts believe that an unusually strong solar wind emanating from the sun from a coronal mass ejection (CME) caused it to be released.

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