Kate HowellsJan 06, 2023

How to see Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF)

A comet from the outer Solar System will be passing close to Earth for the first time in 50,000 years this month, and you might just be able to see it.

Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) — sometimes called "the Green Comet" — is currently visible using a telescope, but as it approaches Earth it is expected to get brighter and easier to see. The comet has a long orbit that takes it from the outer reaches of the Solar System in toward the Sun over thousands of years. It will be closest to the Earth on Feb. 1, at a distance of about 42 million kilometers (26 million miles). In the weeks surrounding its closest approach it may be visible with the naked eye or with binoculars.

The comet will continue to be visible in early February. Look for it between Mars and the bright star Capella on Feb. 8th and near Mars in the sky on Feb. 10th.

Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF)
Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) as seen through a telescope by astrophotographer Dan Bartlett on Dec. 24, 2022.Image: Dan Bartlett

To see it, look in the northern skies just after sunset. Without a telescope, Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) will most likely look like a faint, greenish smudge in the sky rather than a bright object, and isn’t likely to have the dramatic, visible tail we saw on Comet NEOWISE in 2020. But it’s still worth checking out; this particular comet takes around 50,000 years to orbit the Sun, so an opportunity to see it will only come once in a lifetime.

Comet 2022 E3 in Stellarium
Comet 2022 E3 in Stellarium The position of Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) in the night sky on Feb. 1, 2023, as seen from Pasadena, CA.Image: The Planetary Society/Stellarium

Find more night sky viewing tips here.

Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility’s wide-field survey camera at the Palomar Observatory in California in early March 2022.

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How to see Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF), the Green Comet Everything you need to know about Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) or the "Green Comet," which is making its first approach to Earth in 50,000 years.

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