For the past few weeks, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has caught the eyes of stargazers in dark night skies. On Wednesday, Feb. 1, it will make its closest approach to earth. 

It has an orbital period of roughly 50,000 years, meaning that the bright blue-green comet with a golden tail hasn’t been visible from Earth since Neanderthals roamed the planet. 

What You Need To Know

  • Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to Earth on Feb. 1

  • The best chance to see it is by using either binoculars or a telescope

  • The comet’s next closest approach to Earth won't happen for another 50,000 years

According to NASA, the comet was at perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, on Jan. 12, and will be at perigee, its closest approach to Earth, on Feb. 1. It will come within around 100 million miles of the sun and 26 million miles of Earth.

NASA chart showing the orbital path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) as it passes Earth.
NASA chart showing the orbital path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) as it passes Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers discovered the comet back in March 2022 using a wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California.

How to see it? It could be visible to the naked eye in dark skies near the horizon during the early morning hours while looking at the northeastern sky.

Here is how it looked from the National Weather Service office in Seattle, Wash. on Sunday, Jan. 30. 

Since the brightness of comets is notoriously unpredictable, according to NASA, you will have a better chance at seeing the comet using binoculars or a telescope. 

Amelia Brumfield, a second-year Space Sciences PHD student at Florida Tech in Melbourne, Fla. is studying the origins of the comet and hoping to get a clear view as it reaches perigee.

If you miss it, you won’t have another chance to see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) for 50,000 years. With any luck, we won't be doing the same things our ancestors were doing the last time this comet came around.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of other opportunities in 2023 for stargazers to pull out the telescope.

Our team of meteorologists dive deep into the science of weather and break down timely weather data and information. To view more weather and climate stories, check out our weather blogs section.


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