A comet not seen since Neanderthals walked Earth is set to make a return trip — and astronomers have presented the first detailed image of the ‘cosmic snowball’, RT reported.
Officially known as C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the comet orbits the Sun every 50,000 years and is scheduled to make its closest approach to our planet on February 1, 2023.
E3 was discovered in March, but scientists recently took the first detailed image to reveal it.
While the comet is too dim to see without a telescope, it should be visible to the naked eye when it is about 26 million miles away.
And in early March, astronomers discovered Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) using the Zwicky Transit Facility’s Wide Field Survey Camera.
Since then, the new long-period comet has brightened dramatically and is now sweeping across the northern constellation Corona Borealis in the predawn sky.
The comet is currently located 117 million miles from Earth and is scheduled to reach the sun on January 1, orbit around it and achieve its closest point to our planet.
E3 will be the first comet seen with the naked eye since NEOWISE in July 2020.
However, NEOWISE has left a long, fuzzy tail and E3 will likely appear as a gray streak in the night sky.
E3 should be visible by January 26th but reaches its brightest on February 1st.
And this comet is not the only cosmic show scheduled for 2023, as it will start the year with the annual Quadruple meteor spectacle and end with the impressive Geminid meteor in December.
The Quadrantid is one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, and you don’t need specialized equipment to see it.
While the meteor shower technically started today, it will peak on the night of January 3 and the morning of January 4.
However, at the extremes, up to 200 bright stars can be seen per hour, but this depends on ideal conditions and the ideal location on Earth.
As the year 2023 draws to a close, the Geminid meteor will light up the sky from December 13-14.
Meteorites are mainly white but can be yellow, green, red or blue.
While most meteor showers are caused by comets, the Geminid meteor shower is unique in that the scene is produced as Earth passes through a trail of debris from an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon.
Geminid meteor showers were first reported in 1862, but it wasn’t until 1983 that scientists pinpoint the source of 3200 Phaethon.
They are called Geminids because when the Earth passes through the debris, it lights up the star Castor in the constellation Gemini.