A Once In 50,000 Year Comet Event Over San Angelo
The night of the comet is coming. In fact, many nights of comet watching are coming in the skies over San Angelo.
The comet is called C/2022 E3 (ZTF). Let's hope viewing the phenomenon is more exciting than its name. In fact, why didn't astronomers have a contest or something to name it? That would have made things a bit more exciting and stirred up a level of interest more in line with the magnitude of this event.
The last time this comet was visible on earth was 50,000 years ago. At that time, Neanderthals roamed the world. There wasn't much in the way of civilization.
The comet is green. This will make it dazzling to view. It will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12th and be nearest to the earth, according to space.com, on February 1st or 2nd.
While not as spectacular as the comet NEOWISE in July 2020, C/2022 E3 could be visible to the naked eye. In fact, the British Astronomical Association says the comet "has recently grown a long and highly structured ion tail." It will become more and more visible as the phase of the moon dims.
There is a chance the comet will grow even brighter than anticipated.
Here in the San Angelo/West Texas area, we are lucky to have some of the darkest skies in North America just a few short miles outside of town. There, you should get a great view of the comet with the naked eye and a spectacular view with a small telescope or binoculars.
Fortunately for us, we can simply enjoy the view of comets like this one. In the past, the sudden appearance of a comet was considered a harbinger of doom or a menace to the universe. In Roman times, comets were thought to predict the death of kings and natural disasters.
To see this comet, without fear, look just south of the Big Dipper and north of the Little Dipper. The late evening will be best.
As you gaze in wonder at this incredible event in the night sky, you can contemplate what the world might be like in the year 52,023 when it reappears. I am sure whoever or whatever is here then, will consider what the world was like for us.