How to see the once-in-a-lifetime green comet

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Space is yet again throwing a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience at us. A green comet is approaching earth for the first time since the Ice Age and may never return, so look up now or forever hold your peace.

What makes it green? The comet, nicknamed ZTF, is similar to other giant hurtling balls of dust and frozen gas, but produces a unique glowing green light. How? The sun’s ultraviolet radiation hits the diatomic carbon in the comet (which is actually just two carbon atoms fused together) and…we would go more into that, but this isn’t Space Brew.

Scientists first spotted ZTF last March, and now it’s your turn: For northern hemisphere residents, your best bet is to look north this weekend, either late in the evening or early in the morning in a place with little light pollution. The comet will be close to the Draco constellation starting tonight. You have until about early February when ZTF heads to the southern hemisphere.

Besides just looking cool…Astronomers will study the rare comet over the next month before it leaves our solar system, in hopes of getting a better glimpse of the phenomenon that may have helped create life on earth. And luckily, they’ve got the James Webb Telescope to take some pics.—MM

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