Comet visits Earth for first time in 50,000 years 

Comet ZTF passes Earth.
Comet ZTF passes Earth. (Shuttestock)

After 50,000 years, a green comet will be 26 million miles from Earth—scientists call that close.

The comet was discovered last March and is called ZTF. It’s bigger, brighter, and closer to Earth than other comets and will hurtle between the orbits of Earth and Mars at over 128,000 miles per hour.

The comet comes from the Oort Cloud, which is beyond Pluto. ZTF has three tails that extend for millions of miles. It looks green because of a carbon cloud surrounding its mile-wide nucleus. When ZTF speeds off again, scientists say it’s unlikely to return for millions of years.

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How visible will it be? ZTF can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere with binoculars and possibly the naked eye. While it is best seen in the predawn darkness, NASA expects it to brighten as it approaches its nearest point on Feb. 1. It will be near Mars on Feb. 10, which should make it easy to locate. Stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere will get a glimpse next month.

This story originally appeared in WORLD. © 2023, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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