A green comet that was last visible 50,000 years ago has finally returned to the night’s sky.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be visible tonight, and every night this week, for people in the Northern Hemisphere if the skies are clear.
The comet’s perigee is on Wednesday, 1 February, meaning it should be possible to watch the comet with the naked eye.
At its closest point to Earth, the E3 comet will pass within 42 million kilometres (26 million miles) of our planet, having travelled 4.5 trillion km over the last 50,000 years.
Astronomers have calculated through orbital computations that the comet might never pass us again.
The best way to view the comet is on a clear night, as far away as possible from sources of light pollution.
Astronomers advise hopeful skygazers to let their eyes get accustomed to the darkness, which can take up to 30 minutes to properly adjust. During this time, it is not advised to look at a phone screen or any other light source.
Several astronomy apps are available to find where the comet is in the sky, such as SkyView Lite, SkySafari and Sky Map.
The comet’s position in the sky will depend on the date, with astronomers compiling a calendar showing where to look on which day.
Monday, 30 January – Tuesday, 31 January: Near the star Polaris
Wednesday, 1 February: At its closest point to Earth, the green comet will appear bigger and brighter. It will be visible near the constellation Camelopardalis
Thursday, 2 February – Saturday, 4 February: Between the constellations Auriga and Camelopardalis
Weather forecasts from the UK Met Office suggest that the best time to see the comet in the UK wil be early Wednesday morning at around 4am when cloud cover is minimal. You can check the latest forecasts for your area here.