December 8, 2023

Green comet making its way to NZ’s skies may never be seen again

This is the first time we've seen it for about 50,000 years - and might be the last.

A highly-anticipated green comet is set to appear in New Zealand skies for the first time in more than 50,000 years.

Astronomers say it’ll be easiest to spot through binoculars on Saturday night.

Like something from a sci-fi film, the blurry green smudge has been lighting up night skies and the minds of astronomers around the world.

“It’s been sitting way out about one or two light years from the sun and this one here somehow got perturbed, nudged, and came in towards the sun so this is the first time we’ve seen it for about 50,000 years,” said astronomer John Drummond.

The recently-discovered green comet has been visible from the Northern Hemisphere and it’s finally making its way south. But Drummond said the icy, rocky mass won’t be glaringly obvious.

“You can’t walk outside and just look up and see the comet as a blazingly bright thing with the naked eye. You will need binoculars to actually see it as a fuzzy blob.”

And the astronomer said those who are eager to see it will need plenty of patience too.

“The good thing is tomorrow night, that’s Saturday night, it’s going to be sitting about two moon widths to the right of Mars so planet Mars is the bright red star so to speak down in the northern part of the sky,” Drummond said.

Even during its closest approach to Earth in mid-January, the comet was more than 100 times the moon’s distance away

“Forty million kilometres sounds a long way away but in astronomical terms it’s just in our backyard,” said Drummond.

But whether or not this brilliant blob will ever return remains to be seen.

“We’re starting to think it’s actually going to exit our solar system and carry on moving away and we’ll never see it again,” Drummond said.

Making this star-gazing spectacle even more spectacular.

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