Rare green comet makes final appearance for Valentine’s Day

If you’re still looking for the perfect – or last-minute – way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, look no further than the sky above. The rare green comet that has been streaking across the sky in its only appearance in recorded human history is potentially making its final farewell to Earth before going back to the edge of the solar system.

The C/2022 E3 (ZTF) comet was first discovered in March of last year as it traveled near Jupiter. Soon thereafter, NASA divulged that it had hailed from the most distant area of our solar system, traveling between 186 billion and 465 billion miles to orbit around the planets and sun before making its return home.

The length of that journey and the fact that it’s a long-period comet means that it’s been millenniums since it may have previously made its appearance in our area of the solar system. So long, in fact, that the last time the comet would have passed by the sun was 50,000 years ago – when Neanderthals roamed the planet.

“Most known long-period comets have been seen only once in recorded history because their orbital periods are so, well, long,” NASA says. “Countless more unknown long-period comets have never been seen by human eyes. Some have orbits so long that the last time they passed through the inner solar system, our species did not yet exist.”

It first became visible from Earth around December, and the comet made its closest-ever recorded approach to the sun on Jan. 12. The comet, known for its bright green coma and mesmerizing dust tail, made its closest approach to Earth on Feb. 2.

But the comet’s mission isn’t over yet.

Though much dimmer now, the comet is passing by the star Aldebaran on Feb. 14 and 15, just in time for a final kiss goodbye to Earth’s current inhabitants.

Aldebaran, according to Space.com, is the brightest star in the Taurus constellation and is known as the “Eye of the Taurus.” It’s also massive – with a size slightly larger than the sun, although it is older and has a red glow that’s similar to Mars.

According to EarthSky, it will appear “extremely close” to the star on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. To see it, however, viewers will need a camera, binoculars or a telescope, as it will be too dim to see with the naked eye. The comet will set for viewers at about 1 a.m. local time.

To find it, EarthSky says to look for the constellation Orion. When you see the three stars that form Orion’s Belt, picture an imaginary line going through it and to the right – then you’ll notice a bright star with a reddish glow. That’s your target.

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