A comet that has not been seen in 50,000 years is about to make its return for the first time in a very, very long time.
The comet was first discovered by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in early March of 2022 and given the name C/2022 E3 (ZTF). They say this is a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event to witness it.
Those who happen to look up into the night sky this January and February may be able to catch a glimpse of it passing through the solar system.
The last people who were likely to see this star in the earthly sky would have been very early Homo Sapiens, or possibly even Neanderthals.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the comet has a period of around 50,000 years so the last time it was here was at the end of the last ice age during the Upper Paleolithic period.
It’s currently “sweeping across” the constellation Corona Borealis for the first time in millennia although, at this time, the comet is too dim to see with the naked eye.
Sky-watchers will be able to catch a glimpse of the rare sight through a telescope or binoculars and it’s expected to be visible soon in the northern hemisphere during January.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will then be visible in the southern hemisphere in early February.
According to NASA, you should try looking for it in the early morning when the moon is dimmest in the sky. It will be closest to the sun on Jan 12th and closest to Earth on Feb 1st.
Images taken of the comet show a “brighter greenish coma, short broad dust tail and long faint ion tail stretching across a 2.5 degree wide field-of-view,” NASA wrote.