A rare green comet not seen in 50,000 years is coming. Here’s how Canadians can see it – National

A rare green comet not seen in 50,000 years is coming. Here’s how Canadians can see it – National

A rare comet spotted last year is expected to make its way across Earth in the next few weeks, and Canadians will need to have their binoculars handy to see it, according to an astronomy expert.

Notable for its bright green glow, the comet was discovered by astronomers in Southern California in 2022 and was named C/2022 E3, according to a statement released by York University in Toronto.

“This one only comes here every 50,000 years, so we’ll never see this particular type of comet again. So it’s worth taking a look at if you can,” said York University assistant professor Sarah Rugheimer, holder of the Allan I. Carswell Chair in the Public Understanding of Astronomy.

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According to the university, the comet will be closest to Earth at 1:11 p.m. EST on February 1, about 42 million kilometers away, but no one is quite sure how bright it will be.

“Right now we have a new moon, so it’s the darkest sky we’re going to have for a while, but the comet is kind of on the edge. You won’t be able to see it with the naked eye… You definitely need good binoculars or a small telescope to see it,” Rughemier said in an interview with AM640, a Corus Entertainment radio station. Corus is the parent company of Global News.

However, it might be possible to see it with the naked eye towards the end of the month in the early morning hours as it gets closer to Earth, she adds.

“It will also depend on the light pollution in your area and whether we have clear or cloudy skies,” Rughemier said.

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Light pollution has increased over the past 10 years. A study analyzing data from more than 50,000 amateur stargazers from 2011 to 2022 and published this week in Science Journal found that artificial lighting makes the night sky about 10 percent brighter each year.

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“We lose the ability to see the stars year after year,” Fabio Falchi, a physicist at the University of Santiago de Compostela, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

“If you can still see the faintest stars, you are in a very dark place. But if you only see the brightest ones, you’re in a very light-polluted place,” he said.

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According to Rughemier, people in the northern hemisphere can see the green comet in the first days of February. While those below the equator can see it until mid-February.

However, the comet is not the only one with a greenish hue.

One of the misconceptions out there is that people think this is the only green comet, says Rughemier. “It’s not. We’ve seen other comets with this green glow.”

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“The green glow is caused by the presence of carbon gas and cyanide. And these molecules create this green color when excited by the UV radiation from our sun. Depending on what (they are made of) and how close they are to the sun (they) will get different colors like green and blue and yellow and so on,” she explained.

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For those looking to spot the comet, Rughemier recommends downloading a sky-watching app like Stellarium to help them where it is in the night sky.

“It will go between the big and the small car. So that’s where you look for it in the northeast part of the sky. And … to the naked eye or binoculars, it’s going to be like a blur,” she said.

In Toronto, Rughemier said it will “pass by the Corona Borealis constellation just before sunrise… with February 1st being the best day to see it.”

She also recommends people watch the comet’s online streaming from the Allan I Carswell Observatory in York, which begins Wednesday, February 1 at 7:30 p.m. EST.

— With files from The Associated Press

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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