After successfully surviving its orbit around the Sun, the rare green comet is trudging through the skies above Earth and India. Astrophotographers have captured the comet in all its glory across the world. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) at its closest will be 42 million kilometers from Earth as it continues its outbound journey beyond the Solar System. 

The comet has been captured in the skies above the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Hanle as it continues to leave behind a bright tail. The comet was hurtling between the orbits of Earth and Mars at a relative speed of 2,07,000 kilometers per hour. 

Comets consist mostly of ice coated with dark organic material. They are referred to as dirty snowballs and may yield important clues about the formation of our solar system. 

Researchers have estimated that the nucleus of the comet is about 1.6 kilometers across with its tails extending millions of kilometers in the vacuum of space. The comet isn’t expected to be nearly as bright as Neowise in 2020, or Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake in the mid to late 1990s.

Green from all the carbon in the gas cloud, or coma, surrounding the nucleus, this long-period comet was discovered last March by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility, a wide field camera at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory.  Scientists are confident in their orbital calculations putting the comet’s last swing through the solar system’s planetary neighborhood at 50,000 years ago. 

The last time this green comet came into the skies above Earth, modern humans were yet to evolve and our ancient ancestors Neanderthals roamed the planet. The comet — a time capsule from the emerging solar system 4.5 billion years ago — came from what’s known as the Oort Cloud well beyond Pluto. This deep-freeze haven for comets is believed to stretch more than one-quarter of the way to the next star.

It’s expected to brighten as it draws closer and rises higher over the horizon through the end of January, best seen in the predawn hours. By February 10, it will be near Mars. Skygazers in the Southern Hemisphere will have to wait until next month for a glimpse. 

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