Forget scanning the skies for ET. A bright green comet called ‘E3’ will be whooshing across the night sky this week and you’d kick yourself if you slept on this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.
What’s the big deal about this green comet?
The last time the C/2022 E3 (ZTF) (its full scientific name) was visible to the naked eye, mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers roamed the earth freely. Think about that – this glowing green rock hurtling through space was last seen by extinct creatures you’ve only seen in museums!
At the grand age of 50,000 years, E3 might perhaps be the oldest thing in the galaxy our existing generation could probably see in their lifetimes. So the FOMO is justified.
Tell us more about the green comet
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) or E3 or ‘the green comet’ as it’s known amongst astronomy buffs was discovered in March 2022 by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. Although it’s been visible through a telescope this is the first time in thousands of years that the comet’s passing through the earth’s atmosphere and can be seen by the naked eye. Weather permitting, of course.
E3 has a bright green nucleus (a solid centre) and a streaming long ion tail. The comet is quite the intergalactic explorer – its orbit covers the outer reaches of the solar system, which is why it takes thousands of years to sweep across our skies according to The Planetary Society.
Lucky us, then, who get to view the green comet up close. Since February 1, 2023, E3 has been flying the closest that it’s ever been to the sun at a distance of 42 million kilometres. In the grand scheme of space, that mind-boggling number is practically a stone’s throw away and close enough to view the comet with your own eyes.
Here’s where you can see E3 comet in Dubai
You could venture out into the still darkness of the desert, far away from the madding crowds of the city and its light pollution. But if you’re not intrepid and prefer a guided experience, the Dubai Astronomy Group come to the rescue of budding astrophiles with their special comet-viewing event that’s being held on February 4. The Observation + Stargazing event will be held in the Al Qudra desert from 6:30pm to 9:30pm.
Besides access to Dubai Astronomy Group’s state-of-the-art telescope, the three-hour session will walk you through the basics of how to observe a comet, the history of Arabian astronomy, a sky mapping session filled with stories about constellations and a Q&A slot to have all your burning questions answered.