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Rare green comet to be visible from Ireland for the first time in 50,000 years

Travelling as far as possible away from cities and bright lights will increase your odds of a good view.

A RARE GREEN coloured comet will become visible to the naked eye above Ireland this week, becoming brightest on 1 and 2 February.

The comet, known as Comet C/2022 E3 or ZTF, only orbits around the sun every 50,000 years and hasn’t been visible from Earth since the time of the Neanderthals.

ZTF was only discovered last March from the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, which is where it got its name.

The comet comes from the Oort cloud at the edge of the solar system and will come 43 million kilometers from Earth at its closest, which is about one-third of the distant between Earth and the sun.

Founder of Astronomy Ireland, David Moore, told The Journal that the comet will appear brightest next Wednesday and Thursday, the first two days of February.

“I’ve seen it in binoculars, some keen sighted people in the countryside say they can faintly see it with the naked eye already, which makes it one of the brightest comets of the last few years,” he said.

Tonight is forecast to be cloudy, which may make the comet tough to spot, especially as it remains so far from Earth.

However, clouds aren’t the biggest obstacle when it comes to spotting the comet with the naked eye, Moore explained.

“It was clear last night and it wasn’t supposed to. That’s the Irish weather, even if the forecast is bad, check anyway,” he said.

“Today, we’re our own worst enemy. We’re polluting the oceans with plastic, the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane but also the nice dark night’s sky with artificial light that blocks out stars and comets.”

People in cities and large towns will struggle to get a view of the comet even when it gets its closest to Earth.

“Get away from streetlights,” Moore advised.

“That’s the best thing you can do to increase your odds of a good view. We are lucky because the comet will be near the North Star. It will be visible from dusk to dawn so you don’t have to perfectly time you viewing. Ireland has a ringside seat.”

Binoculars or a telescope will make the comet much easier to see, and Astronomy Ireland will be hosting a viewing tomorrow at it’s headquarters near Blanchardstown to allow the public to use its large telescope.

“The great thing about astronomy is that even though this comet wasn’t visible since the Stone Age, 50,000 years is nothing in the timescale of astronomy.”

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