Comet Last Spotted by Neanderthals Might Be Visible Again

C/2022 could be viewable by the naked eye in the right conditions
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2023 1:02 AM CST
Comet Last Spotted by Neanderthals Might Be Visible Again
File photo of a different comet.   (Getty Images / Franco Tognarini)

A comet not spotted since the Upper Paleolithic period could soon be visible to the naked eye again. NASA says the newly discovered comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will reach its perigee, the closest it will pass by the Earth at 26 million miles away, between Feb. 1 and 2. If it continues to brighten as it is currently, it could be spotted by the naked eye in a dark sky, reports. Even if it doesn't remain quite as bright, it should still be viewable through binoculars or a telescope, though exactly what to expect is difficult to predict for comets. CBS News reports that the comet has a "bright greenish coma" and "'short broad' dust tail."

NASA says those in the Northern Hemisphere should look to the morning sky toward the end of January, with the new moon on Jan. 21 being a good time since the comet will be more visible when the moon is dim in the sky. Those in the Southern Hemisphere should look for it in early February. It will be easier to view without binoculars if you're away from city lights, and the BBC, which has a guide to viewing the comet, warns that it won't be as "dazzling" as NEOWISE, the last naked-eye comet to give the world a show. C/2022 is believed to have a period of about 50,000 years, so it likely hasn't been this close to Earth since early homo sapiens were emerging and Neanderthals were going extinct. (Read more comet stories.)

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