Montanans could possibly get a glimpse of a rare comet last seen during the ice age this month.

Girl looking at lunar eclipse through a telescope. My astronomy work.

According to NASA, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers in March 2022. Since it was discovered, the comet has brightened substantially and is now sweeping across the inner solar system. It's still too dim to see without a telescope though.

However, astronomers are predicting that the comet will be bright enough to be seen with the naked eye under dark skies in January.

Image Credit & Copyright: Dan Bartlett
Image Credit & Copyright: Dan Bartlett

Here's what said about the likelihood of seeing the comet;

The comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), is currently passing through the inner solar system. It will make its closest approach to the sun, or perihelion, on Jan. 12, and will then whip past Earth making its closest passage of our planet, its perigee, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 2.

When Will Montanans Be Able to See C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?

Observers in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves in the direction of the northwest during January. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will become visible for observers in the Southern Hemisphere in early February 2023.

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the comet has a period of around 50,000 years. This means that prior to it coming to within around 100 million miles of the sun on Jan. 12 and 26 million miles of Earth on Feb. 2, the last time it came so close was during the Upper Paleolithic period on Earth.

The last time humans could have seen C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was during the last ice age. If you get a glimpse of the comet, consider yourself lucky. It will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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