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the start of 2023, Earth will be visited by a newly discovered comet that may just be bright enough to be spotted with the naked eye. In January, when the comet travels toward the northwest, watchers in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to spot it in the early sky, according to NASA. Beginning in early February 2023, viewers in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

Weather permitting, observers should watch for C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on January 21 during the new moon, when the moon will be low in the sky. During its near approach, the comet will be in the Camelopardalis constellation, according to the website Starlust.

C/2022 E3 is a comet that was discovered on March 3, 2022 by the Solar Wind Anisotropies (SWAN) instrument on board the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). It is a long-period comet, meaning that it has an orbital period of more than 200 years.

This NASA chart shows the orbital path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) at closest approach. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The comet’s orbit is highly elliptical, and it is thought to come from the Oort cloud, a region of space surrounding the solar system that is thought to contain a vast number of small, icy objects. The comet is not expected to make any close approaches to Earth in the foreseeable future.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) estimates that the comet will last for about 50,000 years. Accordingly, the last time it was this near to Earth was during the Upper Paleolithic era, when it passed around 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) from the sun on Jan. 12 and 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) away on Feb. 2.

The last people who were capable of seeing C/2022 E3 (ZTF) were therefore early Homo sapiens who were living during the last glacial era, or “ice age.” The last Neanderthals might also be said to have existed roughly 10,000 years after the final perihelion of C/2022 E3, according to some (ZTF).

The comet is expected to be seen sometime this year by the world. Follow us to stay updated as to when the comet will come across Earth.

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