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The Green Comet: How it got named and how to see it

A once-in-a-lifetime comet is rapidly approaching its closest proximity to Earth and will reach its brightest point in early February.

WASHINGTON — The "green comet" was last in orbit 50 thousand years ago and after its orbit close Earth, it likely won't come back into orbit for several million years. 

So here's what you need to know if you want to try and see the comet between now and February 1:

The darker, the better!

  • First things first, you need to get to get away from city lights. Try and find a dark place away from light pollution.

Have the right gear

  • While you may be able to see the comet from the naked eye if conditions are just right, your best chance to see it is through binoculars or a telescope.

Timing is everything

  • The comet will be competing with the moon's brightness so look up after the moon has set...which means after midnight.

Location, location, location

  • The comet's location in the sky will vary so you should check a sky chart like this one to see which direction to look in. 

Check the forecast!

  • Keep an eye on overnight sky conditions. The clearer, the better.

And if you're wondering why it's called the green comet, Dr. Tony Farnham, an Astronomer from the University of Maryland explains, "It's emitting a diatomic carbon molecule that emits green light when the sun illuminates it and so it's gotten this name that it's the green comet so it's somewhat unique in that respect. It's not uncommon in comets but this one in particular is particularly green."

And the name "green comet" rolls off the tongue a little better than the comet's official name which is 2022 E3 ZTF.

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