SEATTLE — A recently discovered comet will streak by Earth for the first time in 50,000 years, reaching its closest point to Earth on Wednesday, February 1, and the morning of Thursday, February 2.
At this time, the comet will be within 26 million miles of Earth, and while this doesn't sound all too close to Earth, it'll be close enough to possibly make the comet visible to the naked human eye in Washington state as long as the weather cooperates.
The comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was discovered back in early March of 2022 by astronomers at the San Diego Palomar Observatory. This comet is coined the "Green Comet" by some because of its green color and the potential of it being more noticeable because of the comet's slightly larger size.
The green appearance of the comet is produced by the illumination of the comet by the sun and the comet's molecular makeup, consisting of carbon in the gas cloud that surrounds the nucleus.
While the Green Comet could be visible to the naked eye in the state, for better viewing, one can use a home telescope or binoculars to get a better glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime comet.
Optimal viewing time is just a couple hours before dawn, after the moonset, looking toward the northern sky, best enjoyed if removed from light pollution.
The latest forecast calls for breaks in the clouds during the predawn hours on Thursday so you may just get a chance to view the comet as it zips by Earth.
For an even better viewing experience, consider going to the mountains in western Washington or to locations just east of the Cascades where clearer skies are forecast.