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Rare green comet: When, where and how to see it

How to see the rare green comet
How to see the rare green comet 01:44

SACRAMENTO — A rare green comet is zooming our way for the first time in 50,000 years.

As it makes its appearance in the sky, Dr. Kyle Watters, the planetarium director at Sacramento State, shared how you can view the comet if you live in Sacramento. 

The comet, called "C/2022 E3 (ZTF)," has a long name and has experienced a long journey. As it pays us a visit, there are opportunities for a rare sighting. 

Dr. Watters recommends traveling about an hour away from the city until you are able to see open dark skies. With some binoculars in hand, and using brighter stars as a guide, you can try to find what he describes as a "small, fuzzy blob."

He explains that the 50,000-year-long journey is due to the comet moving slowly when it is far from the sun. On the way back, in gravity, the comet speeds up and zips through the inner solar system. 

"It spends only a fraction of its time anywhere near us," Dr. Watters said. "But we happen to be getting that tiny fraction right now." 

You may be able to spot the comet between January 31 and February 2. Using an online sky tracker can help pinpoint where the comet is in relation to other brighter stars. 

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the sky of Molfetta, around 19.30, on February 1, 2023. The object, discovered last year, is separated from Earth by 42 million kilometers. (Photo by Davide Pischettola/NurPhoto via Getty Images) NurPhoto

As to when the comet will return, there is a chance it won't. 

"There's a chance that it's broken its orbit and will never come back again ever," Dr. Watters said. "This might be the last visit of this comet to the inner solar system."

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