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Once-in-a-lifetime chance to see rare comet Wednesday night


A once-in-a-lifetime event will pass through the sky Wednesday night, as a comet known as C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be at its closest point to Earth.

The comet was first discovered in March by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. Though according to experts, the kilometre-wide ball of frozen gases, rocks and dust has been on a journey orbiting through the solar system ever since the last time it was visible from earth, more than 50,000 years ago.

"It will be 50,000 years again until it comes by. It actually occurred back when Homo sapiens were replacing Neanderthals in the upper Paleolithic era,” said Orbax, a production specialist with the department of physics at the University of Guelph.

Experts predict C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be at its brightest locally around 10:20 p.m. Wednesday night.

"It should be close enough to the earth that you’re actually going to be able to see it with the unaided eye,” Orbax said.

The chemical makeup of the comet will cause it to appear as a green streak in the sky.

“This one is a high content of dicarbon molecules which is why it will appear to be green rather than a different colour,” Orbax said.

Members of the KW Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada are planning to watch for the comet.

"Basically being kissed by the comet as it were, because they are real particles, wave particles that hit our eye," said Ellen Papenburg, with the KW Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Papenburg has witnessed similar events before but doesn't expect this one to be as bright as others.

"Too much hype about it," she said. "On the other hand it came from far, so it is very nice even if you can see even a vague patch."

Papenburg plans to find a darker area to watch the comet and use binoculars or a telescope to see it even better.

"Take our telescopes and probably go out of the city, because it's better to be dark and I will try with binoculars but also with telescopes with friends," Papenburg said.

Ellen Papenburg on Jan. 31 pointing to where she typically watches comet events in Kitchener. (Colton Wiens/CTV Kitchener)

According to Orbax, the comet will still be slightly visible from earth all the way until February 15, but the clouds could be an issue for any sky gazers.

"You're going to want to keep your fingers crossed that we're going to have a rare break in our February cloud cover and that you'll actually be able to see it," Orbax said. Top Stories

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