If you live north of the equator, now is the best time to see a rare bright green comet cross the sky.
The comet was last seen 50,000 years ago.
NASA officials said the icy visitor was first spotted in March 2022 while inside Jupiter’s orbit.
It’s been visible to those in the Northern Hemisphere through binoculars for the past few weeks, but it will be closer to Earth — and brighter — on Wednesday.
“Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this continues its current trend in brightness, it will be easy to spot,” NASA said on its blog earlier this month.
“It is only possible that it could become visible to the naked eye under dark skies.”
The icy celestial body — dubbed C/2022 E3 (ZTF), a “mouthful of a name,” according to NASA — is closing in on the sun on Jan. 12 before making its closest approach to Earth on Feb. 2.
By then it will be about 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) from the planet, according to the Planetary Society.
A ‘humbling’ experience
Retired high school science teacher and astrophotographer Dan Bartlett captured images of the comet from his cabin near Yosemite National Park in California and calls stargazing a “humbling” experience.
“I’m telling you – binoculars, dark site – you will see something. Bring friends and you will all see something of a lifetime,” Bartlett told the BBC.
He keeps two “pretty impressive scopes” on his porch at June Lake, and the clear nights and dark skies allow him to capture the impressive photos.
“Anytime you have a lake system around you, or an ocean system, it causes smoother airflow. Smoother airflow means the stars don’t shine so much that you get more detail,” he explained.
To observers in the Northern Hemisphere without a telescope, the comet will appear as a “faint greenish blob in the sky,” while those with a telescope could see the comet’s dramatic visible tail, the Planetary Society said.
A bright green glow will be visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere in the morning sky as the comet moves northwest during January. Those in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to spot it in February, NASA said.
The comet shouldn’t be as much of a “show” as 2020’s Comet NEOWISE, the brightest comet visible from the Northern Hemisphere since 1997, NASA said.
But it’s still “a fantastic opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system,” NASA said.
The comet takes about 50,000 years to orbit the sun, so “the opportunity to see it will only come once in a lifetime,” said the Planetary Society.