Green Comet To Pass Earth Later This Month

For the first time since the Ice Age, a colorful comet will pass close enough to Earth for humankind to take a long look.

Astronomers just discovered Comet ZTF last year, and captured it in photos this week. According to NASA, it’s likely bright enough to witness without a telescope.

Scientists found and named the comet in March 2022, wielding the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. On Monday, NASA shared a new photo of the comet taken by Jose Francisco Hernandez.

The comet reaches its perihelion — its closest point to the sun — on Thursday, Jan. 12. Comet ZTF, also known as the green comet, will reach its perigee, or point closest to Earth, in early February before dimming in light shortly after, NASA said.

“Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies,” the space agency said.

Regardless of how much visibility the comet ultimately offers our planet, you can see it on a Jan. 12 live stream hosted by the Virtual Telescope Project, which offers space lovers an easy way to enjoy and learn about cosmic events like this.

So when can you catch a glimpse of Comet ZTF? It should be visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere during early mornings in January. For the Southern Hemisphere, it’s more likely visible in early February.

The last time stargazers were treated to a comet was in 2020, with Comet NEOWISE.

Comet ZTF “isn’t expected to be quite the spectacle,” NASA said, “but it’s still an awesome opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system.”

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.