Green comet: When and how to see once-in-a-lifetime comet C/2022 E3 in Edinburgh

A once-in-a-lifetime green comet will soar across the sky tonight that was last visible from Earth during the Stone Age - here’s how to see it in Edinburgh

Astronomy lovers are in for a treat as a once-in-a-lifetime green comet is set to soar across the sky, visible for the first time since the Stone Age. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which is also known as the green comet, won’t be visible again from Earth for an estimated 50,000 years.

The comet made its last closest approach to the Sun on January 12 and it is set to make another approach soon. When it reaches its peak, the comet will be in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

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But when will you be able to spot the green comet and how can you see the spectacle from Edinburgh? Here’s everything you need to know.

When is the best time to see the green comet?

The green comet is visible in the Northern Hemisphere now but it will be at its most visible between Wednesday, February 1, and Thursday, February 2.

During this time, the comet will make its closest approach at a distance of 27 million miles.

Why is it called a green comet?

Comets orbit the Sun on extremely elliptical orbits, warming up as they get closer.

Once comets are close enough to the Sun, they convert their surface ice into gas, which disperses and displaces dust in the process.

This process gives comets their dusty “tails”. The tails are known to stretch out behind them for millions of miles as they travel through the Solar Systems.

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Over the years, a range of images of comet C/2022 E3 have been captured by astronomers, and show a faint green glow surrounding the comet. This is thought to be caused by the presence of diatomic carbon, bonded pairs of carbon atoms which emit green light when stimulated by the Sun’s energy.

The green comet originates from the Oort cloud. This cloud is made up of a spherical layer of icy objects and is thought to be located between 2,000 and 100,000 astronomical units (AU) from our Sun.

How to see the green comet from Edinburgh

For the first time in 50,000 years, a green comet is expected to pass by Earth’s outer space that might just be bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.
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Despite many people spotting the green comet recently, the best time to catch it is in the early morning of February 1 and February 2 as it will be at its most visible. However, it can be hard to see with the naked eye, especially in a built-up city like Edinburgh.

While you may be able to see the comet from a high-viewing point in the city, it is best to use a pair of binoculars to capture comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). Nasa has said the comet “isn’t expected” to be quite the spectacle that Comet Neowise was back in 2020, but “it’s still an awesome opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer Solar System.”

If you’re hoping to see the green comet, it is advised by astronomers to choose a dim location free of ambient light, and to give your eyes 30 minutes to adjust to the conditions.The comet will be visible in the northern hemisphere below and to the left of the handle of the Plough constellation, although its visibility depends on the weather.

If you wish to pinpoint the comet’s location, there are many smartphone apps available to help you see the comet, including Star Chart and SkyView. These can help you keep track of the green comet and other celestial objects.

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