During the pandemic, we—as a human species—learned about the power of connection. We saw firsthand that what affects one touches many. People learned to come together and care for one another, in ways that were both visible and invisible to others.
Over the next few days, people around the globe will share another level of connection. Known as the Green Comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), or Comet ZTF, this flying ball of ice, rock, and dust, and gas, better known as a “dirty snowball”, will streak across the night sky. Later this week, we’ll also be treated to February’s Full Snow Moon.
The Awe of Comets
On average, one comet per year is visible to the naked eye. Occasionally, we get treated to a particularly bright comet, called a great comet. According to NASA, there are currently 3,743 known comets. However, there are probably billions of orbiting comets in the Kuiper Belt. The orbiting patterns of these short-period comets are predictable as they take less than 200 years to complete their orbit around the sun, and have therefore been witnessed and recorded throughout human history. The Oort Cloud—the most distant region of Earth’s solar system—houses even more comets. Called long-period comets, those originating in the Oort Cloud can take up to 30 million years to complete their orbit around the sun.
The Green Comet
So what makes this Green Comet such a unique celestial gift? The Green Comet is a long-period comet that last orbited the sun 50,000 years ago. At this time, much of earth was covered in glaciers, and mastodons and woolly mammoths roamed the land. There is recent evidence that early humans and Neanderthals lived together during this time as well. Researchers think the Green Comet may have actually fallen out of orbit, which if correct means this is the last chance any human will be able to view it. Assuming those living during the last Ice Age did not have means to view the comet, we might be the one and only humans to ever witness the Green Comet zip across the sky.
The Green Comet will be about 27 million miles from Earth on February 1 and 2. It’s best to look to the northwestern skies in the early hours before sunrise for the clearest views. Catch a glimpse of the moving green smudge with the unaided eye, or get a closer look with sky binoculars or a telescope. Those living in the Southern Hemisphere will get the best views on February 10.
The Full Snow Moon
As luck would have it, as the Green Comet nears Earth, the second full moon of 2023 makes its debut. The Full Snow Moon, named after the heavy amounts of snowfall expected in North America in February, will reach its potential on Sunday, February 5 at 1:28pm EST.
While the Full Snow Moon might dull the light of the Green Comet, we are cognizant of this gift from the skies above that connects all beings on this planet—human and otherwise. As you stand outside this week, away from city lights, observe the skies until the Green Comet and the Full Snow Moon make themselves visible. Hold our powerful standing meditation, The Dragon Stands Between Heaven and Earth, as shown in the video below. Practice with us virtually: Sunday, February 5 at 1:30pm.
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