A green space voyager that may have last been seen by the Neanderthals is making a return 50,000 years on and can now been seen from Australia.
Scientists say the Green Comet, named because of its emerald glow, is only one kilometre across but its gaseous tail is as wide as Australia.
The closest it has come to earth is 42 million kilometres which is why it won’t be putting on a stunning light show in the night sky when best seen from Australia between Sunday and Saturday.
Officially known as Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), it was only discovered in March 2022 by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California.
Professor Paulo De Souza, Dean (Research) and Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) at Griffith University in Queensland said the comet last passed near earth in the time of the Neanderthals and our early Homo sapian ancestors.
It was also when Aboriginal people were in Australia alongside megafuana such as giant kangaroos.
“Probably it was noticed. We have some things that resemble comets in the sky in rock paintings … an interpretation is that they were trying to represent something like a comet in the sky,” De Sousa told AAP.
De Sousa said the comet would not be spectacular to see and would be best viewed on a clear night in the outback away from city lights. People in cities would best see it with the help of telescopes and binoculars.
De Sousa said those wanting to see the comet from Australia should look to the north in the vicinity of the red planet Mars. The best times to see it will be from Thursday to Saturday.
De Sousa said that each time the comet neared the sun it developed a gaseous tail and burned off a bit more of itself.
Eventually it would just become a flying rock.