Home / News / World /  Green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) buzzing on social media. Watch videos here

It was a special fest for astronomers and space enthusiasts who witnessed the passing of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) with the naked eye. On Wednesday in a unique event, the comet came its closest distance to Earth and was visible from mostly everywhere around the world, including India.

The dirty snowball last visited during Neanderthal times, i.e. over 50,000 years ago, according to NASA. It came within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) of Earth Wednesday before speeding away again, unlikely to return for millions of years.

Discovered less than a year ago, this harmless green comet became visible a few days earlier in the northern night sky with binoculars and small telescopes, and possibly the naked eye in the darkest corners of the Northern Hemisphere. However, on Wednesday it became the brightest as it hurtled between the orbits of Earth and Mars at a relative speed of 128,500 mph (207,000 kilometers). Its nucleus is thought to be about a mile (1.6 kilometers) across, with its tails extending millions of miles (kilometers).

The social media for the past few days went buzzing with the picture of the green comet.


While plenty of comets have graced the sky over the past year, “this one seems probably a little bit bigger and therefore a little bit brighter and it’s coming a little bit closer to the Earth’s orbit," said NASA’s comet and asteroid-tracking guru, Paul Chodas.

Green from all the carbon in the gas cloud, or coma, surrounding the nucleus, this long-period comet was discovered last March by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility, a wide field camera at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory. That explains its official, cumbersome name: comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

Scientists are confident in their orbital calculations putting the comet's last swing through the solar system's planetary neighborhood at 50,000 years ago. But they don't know how close it came to Earth or whether it was even visible to the Neanderthals, said Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

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