Comet last seen by Neanderthals to be visible to the naked eye in February | Tech News

Comet last seen by Neanderthals to be visible to the naked eye in February

A comet which was last seen by Neanderthals could make another trip to Earth next month.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Jan 10 2023, 10:07 IST
Where do comets come from?
Comet ZTF
1/6 Most comets come from the Kuiper belt, a region beyond the orbit of Neptune comets from this neighborhood usually take 200 years or less to make one orbit around the sun. These are called short-period comets. (NASA)
Comet ZTF
2/6 Comets also come from their other hangout Oort cloud, a far-far-distant cloud, sending some flying into the inner solar system. (Pixabay)
Comet ZTF
3/6 When they are at home in the Oort cloud or Kuiper belt comets are just dull, dark chunks of ice, dust, and rock. In this state, they may not be much different from asteroids. (NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery)
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4/6 Sometimes the gravitational pull of a planet can disturb comets in the Kuiper Belt and fly one headlong toward the sun. Notably, Jupiter's strong gravity can turn a long-period comet into a short-period one. (NASA)
Comet ZTF
5/6 The Sun's gravitational pull takes over, shaping the comet's path into an elliptical orbit. The comet travels faster and faster as it nears the sun swings and goes around close to the backside, then heads back to more or less where it came from. (Pixabay)
image caption
6/6 What makes comets look fuzzy and have tails? As comets get closer to the sun and begin to warm up, some of their materials start to boil off. This material forms a cloud around the nucleus. The cloud is called the coma and may stretch over hundreds of thousands of miles across. (NASA)
Comet ZTF
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A comet called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will come near Earth in February. (NASA/Jose Francisco Hernández)

If you are a fan of watching comets, there is some exciting news for you. A comet which was last seen by Neanderthals is all set to pass Earth this year. Comets are cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust roughly the size of a small town. A comet also orbits the Sun, but unlike an asteroid, it's mostly composed of ice and dust. When a comet gets close to the Sun, its ice and dust content start to vaporize. So, when seen in a telescope, a comet appears fuzzy and has a tail.

Although comets pass Earth relatively frequently, there is something special about this one. The comet has a period of around 50,000 years, meaning the last time it flew past Earth closely, it was seen by Neanderthals during the Upper Paleolithic period on Earth, although we're not sure they would've known much about it.

This comet is called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and it is presently located around 100 million miles away from Earth, but is rushing towards our planet fast. Comet C/2022E3 (ZTF) is a long-period comet that originated in the Oort cloud. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in 2022 in early March, NASA revealed. Astronomers say that it will come within roughly 26 million miles of Earth on February 1.

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NASA says that on a voyage through the inner Solar System comet C/2022 E3 will be at perihelion, its closest to the Sun, in the new year on January 12 and at perigee, its closest to Earth, on February 1.

Although comets are usually unlikely to be visible to the naked eye, the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could be visible to people around the world watching with naked eyes for a few days around the period of its close approach.

NASA says that this comet is now sweeping across the northern constellation Corona Borealis in predawn skies and it is still too dim to see without a telescope.

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First Published Date: 10 Jan, 10:06 IST
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