Get ready to look up, Upstate New Yorkers: A rare comet is set to brighten the night sky for the first time in 50,000 years.
The newly discovered comet, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was discovered last March when it was within Jupiter’s orbit. The greenish “cosmic snowball” hasn’t soared close to Earth since the last ice age, according to NASA and other astronomy experts.
And starting this week, stargazers have a chance to catch sight of the elusive comet — no telescope necessarily needed.
The comet will be closest to the sun on Jan. 12 and nearest to Earth on Feb. 2, NASA said.
“Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies,” NASA wrote on its “What’s Up” blog.
For the best chance of catching early sight of the comet, sky-gazing folks in the Northern Hemisphere should plan to stay up past midnight, according to EarthSky. The comet will most likely be visible to the unaided eye at night toward the end of January when Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) approaches Polaris, the organization said.
The comet won’t be the only celestial treasure to cross the night sky this month.
Three planets —Jupiter, Saturn and Venus — can be spotted without binoculars or a telescope at different points throughout January, according to NASA. And in the few hours after sunset, bright winter constellations will light up the sky.