It is the night of the Neanderthal comet, at 18:11 Italian time it will pass at the minimum distance from the Earth, about 42 million kilometers, but the best moment to observe it will be late at night, just before dawn when the Moon will have set .
"Obviously we are in the hands of the weather, on which we are however confident, but today is the most awaited night for this comet", commented astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, head of the Virtual Telescope Project.
Discovered just under a year ago and named with the initials C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the comet is now known among the media and enthusiasts as the Neanderthal comet because, analyzing its orbit, it emerged that it last passed near to the Earth about 50,000 years ago, at the time of our 'cousins'.
At 18:11 Italian time on February 1, the comet will be at the minimum distance from the Earth, at 42 million kilometers, but being able to see it with the naked eye is very difficult, even if far from city lights.
The best time to try could be starting at 5 am on February 2, when the Virtual Telescope will also start live and when the Moon will set, thus improving the visibility of the sky.
Tonight's will be one of the very last opportunities to observe the comet, which is moving away from the Sun and from tonight also from the Earth and will gradually disappear from our sight for about another 50,000 years.