31 January 2023, by Victoria Séveno
Yes, you read that correctly: this year, avid stargazers in the Netherlands will be in for a real treat, as a bright green comet will make its way across the Dutch skies, peaking on the night of February 1.
A green comet? Meet Comet C / 2022 E3 (ZTF)
Comet C / 2022 E3 (ZTF) was first identified in March 2022 by staff at the Zwicky Transient Facility Observatory in California, and is notable for a variety of reasons. It hasn’t been spotted in skies above Earth in 50.000 years – but this week people in the Netherlands (and in countries like Switzerland) should be able to see it with the naked eye, as it passes within 42 million kilometres of our planet.
Known colloquially as E3, the comet will be especially noticeable (even to the novices out there) because of its colour. A comet is a small, usually icy rock or ball that orbits around a star. When it gets closer to the sun it starts to release gases which can create colourful tails in the night sky. In E3’s case, the vapour will be greenish in colour, and it will leave behind a golden tail.
How to spot the green E3 comet from the Netherlands
E3 is the first comet to light up the Dutch sky since Neowise made an appearance in 2020, and like then, you’ll need a clear dark night for your best chance of getting a glimpse of this green wonder.
The comet will peak on the night of Wednesday, February 1. To improve your odds of getting a glimpse of E3, you could make use of a telescope or some binoculars, but if the conditions are right then members of the public should be able to spot it with the naked eye.
For the best results, wait until the sun has fully set, and try to head out of the city and find somewhere that doesn’t have too much light pollution (like a national park). Luckily, forecasts are currently predicting that there shouldn’t be much rain during the night, but it is looking like it’ll be a cloudy night – here’s hoping the weather clears up and decides to cooperate!
Thumb: David Hajnal via Shutterstock.com.