Scientists say a rare sight that’s 50,000 years in the making is coming as a green comet will soon pass Earth, and should be bright enough to see with the naked eye in the pre-dawn sky.
What You Need To Know
- Comet ZTF, otherwise known as the Green Comet, will pass by Earth soon
- The last time it came through was 50,000 years ago
- Local scientists are excited to study this unique opportunity
The comet is something scientists, students and sky-watchers are eager to see. It’s currently unknown if the comet will pass close to Earth again.
Amelia Brumfield is a second-year Space Sciences PHD student at Florida Tech. Her focus right now is studying meteors.
“It is really cool that I’m studying something related to this comet,” Brumfield tells us.
Sky watchers know this comet as Comet ZTF, named for the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, which discovered the astronomical wonder last March.
The icy ball is glowing green because of sunlight decaying a reactive molecule called dicarbon. The last time this comet passed earth was 50,000 years ago, during the last ice age.
“When it comes to comets, it’s a body from the far reaches of our solar system, it’s not something you see every day,” Brumfield said. “So it’s really exciting for me to be able to see something like this.”
Csaba Palotai is an associate professor of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences. He says it’s unknown if the comet will return in another 50,000 years or leave the solar system and never come back.
Its origin is from an area of space we aren’t able to observe, some 466 billion miles away.
“This is coming from the so called ‘Oort Cloud.’ It’s actually in interstellar space, so this is the outside region of the solar system,” says Palotai.
Brumfield is prepping to see the icy body before it peaks February 1.
“We’re trying to get that picture of it. We are messaging each other saying oh it’s cloudy tonight hopefully tomorrow night, we are very thrilled about it,” she said.
The best advice for seeing the comet is to head to a place with dark skies and look towards the north star before dawn. Interested stargazers should bring along a telescope or binoculars just in case you can’t see it with your eyes.