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In 2023, keep an eye out for this comet

One bright spot for the next year: The year 2023 could be our last opportunity in a lifetime to witness the arrival of a brand new comet.

In January and early February, stargazers should keep a watch out for CometC/2022 E3 (ZTF), but they may require a telescope or binoculars at first. However, there is hope that the comet may become visible to the human eye in dark skies as it comes closer to Earth. It would be the first comet to be visible to the naked eye since NEOWISE disappeared in 2020.

In March of last year, while still inside Jupiter’s orbit, a fresh comet was detected. Based on its present path, the comet will reach its solar closest point on January 12 of next year. NASA estimates that it will be 26.4 million miles (42.5 million kilometres) from Earth on February 2nd.

The comet will be visible in the early morning sky of the Northern Hemisphere in January, moving northwest and passing between the Little and Big Dippers at the month’s conclusion. If everything goes well, Newsweek says Earthlings may be able to see the comet with their unaided eyes by the end of January. For those in the southern hemisphere, the comet’s appearance is likely to be delayed until early February. However, comets are notoriously erratic, so we’ll have to wait and see whether this one follows its predicted path.

There is no light production by the comet itself. Since they are composed of many substances including ice, gases, rock, and dust, they are sometimes referred to as “dirty snowballs” in the cosmos. The comet’s tail forms when ice melts. The ice also seems to shine because it reflects the sun’s rays.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could become visible to the naked eye without the aid of a telescope or binoculars, however it is not projected to be as spectacular as Comet NEOWISE was in 2020. Newsweek reports that scientists don’t anticipate another visit from Comet C/2022 E3 to Earth for at least another 50,000 years.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Preston Dyches stated in a video released this week, “It’s still a fantastic chance to build a personal connection with an ice visitor from the far outer solar system.”