In the next few days, the “Green Comet,” or C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will come within the closest range of Earth’s atmosphere. Last seen at the time that Neanderthals and modern humans were coexisting on Earth, this comet is one of the most anticipated celestial visitors in history.
While comets may occasionally light up the night sky, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is rather modest and won’t compete with the brightness of more well-known visitors. To view it, you’ll need to go to a spot with minimal ambient light, and even then, it’ll be challenging because of how faint it is.
However, if the weather and skies cooperate over the following few days, you may be able to view it with the unaided eye as it reaches its brightest. Though a telescope or binoculars aren’t required, they certainly wouldn’t hurt to have.
This is the best place on Earth to witness the astronomical event.During this time, the Green Comet will be seen from a great distance.
Those of you who are not located in the Northern Hemisphere will not be able to witness this celestial phenomenon. The closest approach of the Green Comet will occur as it passes directly over the Northern Polar Region. More people on Earth will be able to see it as it recedes, but it will get fainter and more powerful telescopes will be needed to see it.
However, comet hunters, so long as they are in a pretty wide place, will be able to stare straight up into the sky during 1 and 2 February, when it will be easiest to spot, because it will be quite near Polaris at its brightest.
The Green Comet can be found by scanning the area between the North Star and the Big Dipper’s cup in the northwest, in the direction it is traveling. The Moon is currently in its waxing phase, when it grows larger and brighter with each passing day, and is best viewed in the morning, when it is located above and to the left of Polaris.
You’ll be on the lookout for a fuzzy, hardly visible ball in the sky; you won’t be able to see the tail or the green tint with the naked eye, and you probably won’t be able to see it with binoculars, either. Locate a dark, early morning spot and get a good look at the comet.
Finding an area with little to no light pollution will be crucial for unaided viewing of the Green Comet. That task becomes extremely challenging, if not impossible, if you make your home in a major metropolitan area. You’ll need to get out into the countryside, away from any bright city lights, but even then you might struggle.
Your greatest bets are going to be farmlands, wilderness areas, and parks. Seek out one of the many International Dark Sky Parks scattered across the United States for the greatest views of the night sky.
These are places where the public can go to learn about and appreciate nature and culture. They feature “distinct night skies and a nocturnal atmosphere,” which is to say, “special or exemplary qualities.”
The International Dark-Sky Association maintains a directory of such locations. Although many of these locations are controlled by the government, some may be privately held provided the landowner “consents to the right of permanent, ongoing public access to certain sections.”
You should aim for a very early morning observation, after the Moon has risen above the horizon and at least an hour and a half before the Sun rises, because the Moon is currently waxing.