Green comet sighting is 50,000 years in the making - Albuquerque Journal

Green comet sighting is 50,000 years in the making

For the first time in 50,000 years, the public has the opportunity to witness a green comet as it passes by Earth.

The C/2022 E3 (ZTF) comet was first discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility located at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California.

When it was first noticed, the comet was 397 billion miles away.

It has traveled a bit since then. During the month of January, the green comet has been passing by the Earth, and it’s estimated to be closest to the planet on Feb. 1.

This will be the best opportunity to see the once-in-a-lifetime sight, but only with a little help.

“The brightness of the comet might just get to the very threshold of being visible in the sky,” said Jim Greenhouse, Space Science Director at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. “But probably not going to be all that obvious.”

The stars need to align – no pun intended – for the green comet to be seen. A viewer’s best shot is to find an open area with an untainted sky and will most likely need the assistance of binoculars or a telescope. Additionally, the weather also must cooperate.

Greenhouse explained that the bigger the comet, the brighter, and the green comet is predicted to reach a magnitude six, which is the highest number something can be in order to be visible in the sky under “ideal conditions.”

“Ideal conditions meaning you can’t have any light pollution, you can’t have any air pollution, you can’t have any clouds, anything. If you’ve got a perfectly dark, perfectly clear sky, you can see down to magnitude six,” he said.

Lastly, you need to know what you’re looking for. Greenhouse said that a green comet is green because “it contains an unusually high amount of carbon in it.”

“The infrared radiation from the sun starts to break the carbon down, and part of that process causes the emission of this dark green light,” he said. “The reason you only see the green in the head … is because the carbon pretty much gets broken down completely and turns into other elements by the time it reaches the tail.”

Greenhouse also noted that comets aren’t shooting stars, so a viewer shouldn’t be looking for a streak of light passing through the black sky. The green comet will be stationary and when viewed through binoculars or a telescope, it will be more like a fuzzy patch with an elongated side signifying where the tail is.

Now, you know what you’re looking for, but where in the vast night sky should you point your lens?

Greenhouse recommends checking online at or using a star chart for the comet’s exact location when you’re attempting to view it, but it can be found in the circumpolar area of the sky, close to the North Star.

“There’s a certain area of the night sky between the North Star and the horizon that’s visible all night long, and the comet is going to be moving into that area of the sky,” Greenhouse said.

He added that leading up to the green comet’s closest pass of Earth, it will be between the Big and Little Dippers.

With the right tools, an open area and ideal weather conditions, you may be able to catch this once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Green comet sighting is 50,000 years in the making

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Migrants start fire at Mexico detention center, killing 40
ABQnews Seeker
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing ... MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that killed at ...
New Mexico court upholds Native American actor convictions
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- The ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- The New Mexico Court of Appeals has upheld the rape and voyeurism convictions of Native American actor and film ...
David Batista named branch manager with Yellowstone Landscape
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with ... BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with the landscape company for 17 years.
New Mexico abortion care: What's happening now and what ...
ABQnews Seeker
When Roe v. Wade was overturned ... When Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, New Mexico seemed poised to become a destination for those seeking abortion. Here's what's happened since ...
WaFd's Lonnie Corral promoted to senior VP
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead ... BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead the nine branches he oversees in southern New Mexico.
La Luz Elementary School students were originally expected to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Originally, the district's plans were to ... Originally, the district's plans were to move students out in 2025. Now, APS wants to do it this fall.
Authorities say a man brought a gun into Flix ...
ABQnews Seeker
If not for the theater's beer ... If not for the theater's beer taps or the man's suspected use of cocaine, the gun-wielding patron who sent Flix Brewhouse employees into a ...
Lobo hoops notebook: Seck to transfer, House returns, Udeze ...
ABQnews Seeker
News and notes around Lobo basketball, ... News and notes around Lobo basketball, including another transferring scholarship player and updates on Morris Udeze and Jaelen House.
Judge: District attorney can't be co-counsel in Baldwin case
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A New Mexico judge said Santa Fe's district attorney shouldn't serve as co-counsel in the manslaughter case against actor ...