Earth Is About To See An Object Last Seen During The Time Of Neanderthals

The last time this was seen, humanity had only just begun to expand.

Over the coming months, a celestial object that was last observed when Neanderthals walked the planet will be visible if you look up into the sky.

A comet was discovered on March 2, 2022, by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility using a wide-field survey camera. The comet is estimated to orbit the Sun once every 50,000 years, which means the last time we saw it was during the Upper Paleolithic period, when humans began to expand across Asia and Europe.

The comet, dubbed “C/2022 E3 (ZTF),” is currently too faint to be seen without a telescope. However, it is possible to see with the naked eye between the end of January and the beginning of February 2023.

The comet is currently approaching perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun), which will take place on January 12. On February 1, it will be closest to Earth, known as perigee. It may be visible to the naked eye at this point, though Sky at Night notes that it would most likely look like a smudge of chalk dust on a chalk board rather than the dazzling display put on by comet Neowise.

The comet, which was originally thought to be an asteroid before the coma was spotted, was discovered using a 1.2 meter telescope. It will pass Earth safely at a distance of approximately 42.5 million kilometers (26.4 million miles) on February 1. The comet is expected to become brighter than magnitude 6 and thus become visible to the naked eye from a dark-sky location.

Earth Is About To See An Object Last Seen During The Time Of Neanderthals
This NASA chart shows the orbital path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) at closest approach. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

During its closest approach to Earth, it will appear near the northern celestial pole and will be located in the constellation Camelopardalis. On February 10-11, the comet will pass within 1.5 degrees of Mars and on February 13-15, it will pass in front of the Hyades star cluster.

READ MORE: Watch A Comet Getting Destroyed By The Sun

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