, 2023-01-20 09:38:51,
A newly discovered comet is soaring across the sky and will be closest to Earth Thursday, Feb. 2.
Although astronomers just documented the comet last March, the last time it got this close to Earth was during the Ice Age, according to NASA Jet Propulsion Labs.
While there is no guarantee the comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will be visible without equipment, those who bring binoculars out to a dark area may be able to see it.
“The brightening of comets can be difficult to predict, but even if C/2022 E3 (ZTF) doesn’t brighten enough to become visible with the naked eye, it will still be observable during January and early February with binoculars and small telescopes,” Space.com says.
Depending on the weather, Saturday might be a good time to see the comet, as the moon will be in the new phase.
As of Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service State College office forecasts Saturday night would be mostly cloudy with a low around 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is a comet?
Comets are “cosmic snowballs” made from frozen gases, rock and dust orbiting the sun, NASA says. They can be the size of a small town when frozen, and heat up and spew gases and dust when they get close to the sun.
“There are likely billions of comets orbiting our Sun in the Kuiper Belt and even more distant Oort Cloud,” NASA’s website says.
The current number of known comets is 3,743, according to NASA.
Stargazing tips, where to go in central Pennsylvania
If you’re looking for a good place to stargaze with low light pollution, NASA offers these tips:
Head at least 20 to 30 miles from urban areas
Try to find a space on the side of a large wilderness area or body of water
Look for higher altitude locations
Go to an area with open views, such as a lake shore or meadow, so trees don’t interfere with your line of sight
Make sure to avoid trespassing
Central Pennsylvania has several public options for stargazing, but be sure to double-check hours as some locations may close before prime viewing time.
Here’s where to go:
Tom Tudek Memorial Park
Tom Tudek Memorial Park comprises 87 acres and has a playground, basketball court, pavilions, indoor restrooms and more.
Location: 400 Herman Drive, State College, PA 16801
Bernel Road Park
Bernel Road Park is 74.4 acres, and it offers a playground, pavilion, drinking fountain, walking path, picnic tables and tennis/pickleball courts. There’s also charcoal grills and an 18-hole disc golf course.
Location: 2501 Bernel Road,…
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