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A newly discovered comet could be visible to the naked eye as it shoots past Earth and the Sun in the coming weeks for the first time in 50,000 years, astronomers have said. The comet is called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) after the Zwicky Transient Facility, which first spotted it passing Jupiter in March last year.

After traveling from the icy reaches of our Solar System it will come closest to the Sun on January 12 and pass nearest to Earth on February 1. It will be easy to spot with a good pair of binoculars and likely even with the naked eye, provided the sky is not too illuminated by city lights or the Moon. Made of ice and dust and emitting a greenish aura, the comet is estimated to have a diameter of around a kilometer, said Nicolas Biver, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory.

The comet has spent most of its life “at least 2,500 times more distant than the Earth is from the Sun”, Prince said. The last time the comet passed Earth was during the Upper Paleolithic period, when Neanderthals still roamed Earth. Prince said the comet’s next visit to the inner Solar System was expected in another 50,000 years.

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Image courtesy Phys Org

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