Unless you were around in 48,000 B.C. (and if you were, tell us your secret, because you look great), this will be the first and last time you or anyone you know will be able to see this baby as it zooms by our planet:
A recently discovered comet is now passing through the inner solar system and should be visible with a telescope and likely with binoculars. The comet, which has a mouthful of a name – C/2022 E3 (ZTF) – was first sighted in March last year, when it was already inside the orbit of Jupiter. It makes its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and then passes its closest to Earth on February 2.
As an aside, isn't it always surprising when NASA suddenly discovers a large astronomical object? We always think these guys have seen everything there is to see out there. But space is a big place.
There's a narrow window to spot this things, but it's doable, according to the Planetary Society:
Observers in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best chance of spotting the comet if they look in the northwestern skies before dawn. Without a telescope, Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) will most likely look like a faint, greenish smudge in the sky rather than a bright object, and isn't likely to have the dramatic, visible tail we saw on Comet NEOWISE in 2020. But it's still worth checking out; this particular comet takes around 50,000 years to orbit the Sun, so an opportunity to see it will only come once in a lifetime.
Here's a little mock-up showing where the comet will be in the sky at the beginning of next month:
This weekend, meanwhile, offers a better-than-average chance of seeing it:
On Jan. 21, the night of the new moon and thus the darkest skies, the comet will be close to Draco — the dragon-shaped constellation that runs between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper.
Over the following nights, the comet will creep along the dragon's tail. And on Jan. 30, the comet will reside directly between the Big Dipper's "cup" and Polaris, the North Star. If you're accustomed to finding the North Star by following the two stars on the end of the Big Dipper's cup, then you should be able to spot the comet. Simply scan that imaginary line until you see a faint smudge.
Comets are rare things. The only naked-eye comet that comes to Earth within the span of a single human life is Haley's Comet, next due for a pass in 2061.