A rare green comet is due to make its closest pass by Earth. The comet named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be visible this week for people in the Southern Hemisphere if the skies are clear. The comet is streaking back our way after almost 50,000 years.
According to NASA, the comet visited Earth during Neanderthal times. It will come within 26 million miles (42 million kilometres) of Earth on Wednesday before speeding away again, unlikely to return for millions of years.
The comet was first spotted in March last year by astronomers through the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility. It was in Jupiter's orbit at the time and has grown brighter since then.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration says that Neanderthal Comet will shift to the northwest on the horizon throughout January and it will make its closest pass of Earth between February 1 and February 2.
"Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it'll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it's just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies," NASA wrote in its "What's Up" blog.
Comets are cosmic snowballs made of frozen gases, rocks, and dust that orbit the Sun. While these celestial bodies are small in size when frozen, they get heated upon coming closer to the Sun and release gases and dust into a large glowing head, which is bigger than most planets.
According to Space.com, the orbital period of the comet was determined to be around 50,000 years. This means that it will be making its first approach to Earth in 50,000 years next month.