Discovered in March 2022, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is approaching the Earth. In only a few weeks, it will come the closest to our planet before vanishing again for tens of thousands of years. Astrophotographers and space enthusiasts, you know what this means: get your telescopes and cameras ready! In fact, the comet and its green tail could even be visible to the naked eye.
Astronomers discovered the long-period comet using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in early March 2022. Since then, it has brightened substantially “and is now sweeping across the northern constellation Corona Borealis in predawn skies,” NASA explains.
In an image from 19 December 2022, you can see the comet’s tail, but it was taken through a telescope and was still too dim to see. However, NASA writes that E3 will be its closest to the Sun on 12 January 2023 and its closest to our planet on 1 February. “The brightness of comets is notoriously unpredictable,” NASA concludes, “but by then C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could become only just visible to the eye in dark night skies.”
While this comet will not be as bright as comet NEOWISE, you’ll still likely be able to see it with the naked eye, small binoculars, and of course telescope. And since it won’t come back for tens of thousands of years – try not to miss it.