Home / Science / News /  Green Comet Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) to be closest to Earth on 1 Feb. Here's how to watch it in India

Get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime celestial display! On 1 February, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be visible to the naked eye from Earth, providing an opportunity for astronomers and space enthusiasts to observe a unique event. The comet will be at its closest distance to Earth on this date, making it viewable in nearly every state in India and across the world.

This greenish-tinged comet has a nucleus surrounded by a tadpole-shaped tail that stretches for millions of kilometers. It recently completed its orbit around the Sun and is now on its way out to the outer reaches of the solar system.

On a cosmic scale, the comet will be only 42 million kilometres away from Earth's surface when it is closest. The comet's 50,000-year orbit around the Sun is what distinguishes it from other objects. The last time it passed this close to Earth, Neanderthals still roamed the planet and modern humans had not yet developed.

How to watch the Green Comet?

According to Shilpi Gupta, a Scientific Officer at the Birla Planetarium in Kolkata, the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will not be easily visible to the naked eye and will require a binocular and clear, dark skies for proper observation. Light pollution from cities can hinder viewing, so it's recommended to travel to a location with reduced light for the best experience. With these conditions, stargazers will be able to see the faint comet moving across the sky.

On Monday, it appeared between the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star. And on Wednesday, it was positioned to appear near the constellation Camelopardalis, bordered by Ursa Major, the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper.

When and where to watch the cComet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?

The optimal time to observe the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be after 9:30 PM, provided that the skies are clear and dark. To spot the greenish-tinged comet in the skies above India, look towards the south of the Pole Star. The comet will be moving in a southerly direction and will eventually reach the head of the Orion constellation.

Space geeks in several parts of India, including West Bengal, Odisha, Ladakh, and the northeast states, will have the opportunity to witness this celestial event. With clear skies and a bit of patience, you'll be able to see the comet's movement and its unique greenish tinge.

What is a Comet?

Comets, often referred to as "dirty snowballs" by astronomers, are made up of rock, ice, and dust and typically come from the Oort cloud, a ring of icy material at the outer edge of our solar system. In rare cases, comets may even come from outside the solar system, such as 2I/Borisov.

The solid core of a comet is surrounded by a thin and gassy atmosphere, called a coma, made of ice and dust. As the comet approaches the Sun, it melts, releasing a stream of gas and dust from its surface that is blown by solar radiation and plasma, forming a tail that points away from the Sun.

Gravitational forces from within the solar system can dislodge comets from the Oort cloud, causing them to move towards the inner solar system where they become more visible as they get closer to the heat from the Sun. On average, fewer than a dozen comets are discovered each year by observatories around the world.

(With inputs from agencies)

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