The Green Comet Flies By
A green comet named Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which last passed our skies about 50,000 years ago flies by inspiring awe, fear and dread
A green-hued comet that has been lurking in the night sky for months is now visible to stargazers this week as it gradually passes Earth for the first time in about 50,000 years.
The cosmic visitor will swing by our planet at a distance of about 26.4 million miles (42.5 million km).
Astronomers found the comet on March 2, 2022, by using a wide-field survey camera of the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California.
The name refers to its blazing green tail, which is caused by a chemical reaction between the comet’s diatomic carbon molecules (C2) and ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Even though the best time to see the comet was Thursday morning, there will be an opportunity to catch it on Saturday night.
This will be when the Green Comet approaches Capella, known as the “golden star.” Comets throughout history have been blamed for some of history’s darkest times. In Switzerland, Halley’s Comet was blamed for earthquakes, illnesses, red rain, and even the births of two-headed animals.
The Romans recorded that a fiery comet marked the assassination of Julius Caesar, and another was blamed for the extreme bloodshed during the battle between Pompey and Caesar. In England, Halley’s Comet was blamed for bringing the Black Death. The Incas, in South America, even record a comet having foreshadowed Francisco Pizarro’s arrival just days before he brutally conquered them.
Comets and disaster became so intertwined that Pope Calixtus III even excommunicated Halley’s Comet as an instrument of the devil, and a meteorite, from a comet, became enshrined as one of the most venerated objects in all of Islam.
This comet last passed Earth at a time when Neanderthals still inhabited Eurasia, our species was expanding its reach beyond Africa, big Ice Age mammals including mammoths and saber-toothed cats roamed the landscape and northern Africa was a wet, fertile and rainy place.
NASA plans to observe the comet with its James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which could provide clues about the solar system’s formation.
Source Deep Impact/Reuters/NASA
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