The green comet last visible to Neanderthals
Comet C/2022 E3 is a bit of a paradox: it was only discovered last year, yet it could have been seen by Neanderthals over 50,000 years ago. Don’t let its dull-sounding name fool you: it is notable for its ethereal green glow, which gives this intergalactic traveler a beautiful, ghostly appearance in the night sky.
The green glow isn’t the only thing that makes this comet special. There are two kinds of comets: common comets and bright comets. Common comets are, as the name suggests, common. Several of them pass by our planet every year, but they are too dim to see with the naked eye. Bright comets, on the other hand, appear way less often; the last bright comet passed us nearly three years ago, in 2020. It remains to be seen (literally), but the green comet might end up being a bright one – bright enough to see with the naked eye.
it could have been seen by Neanderthals over 50,000 years ago
Not content with just saying hello once, the green comet has decided to stop by again – but there’s a high likelihood that it will never again pass our planet. The least we can do is say farewell to this gentle traveler before she departs one last time. Naturally, many of us will be scanning the night sky in the coming weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime sight. But what are our chances of actually seeing it in Berlin?
Spotting the comet in and around Berlin
Berlin is known for its nightlife, but the light pollution does pose a challenge for the amateur astronomers among us. That said, stargazing in and around Berlin is possible, if one knows the right spots. Technical equipment, such as binoculars, can also aid the discerning comet-hunter. Finally, it is essential to know where to look in the night sky if you want to have a chance of seeing the comet.
Where to go
The optimal conditions for comet-hunting require a journey away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and into areas with less light pollution. Teufelsberg in Brunewald is one of the best spots: this man-made hill is cloaked in the darkness of Grunewald forest, which protects it from much of Berlin’s light pollution. For the more intrepid, the village of Gülpe is the darkest place in Germany, and is only a two hour journey away from Berlin. Of course, in a pinch, the various parks of Berlin are good places to look for the comet, too – and even if you don’t see the comet, you’ll get a breath of fresh air.
- Find more ways to catch some peace and quiet around Berlin here
What to use
Astronomers aren’t quite sure yet whether the comet will be visible to the naked eye. To improve your chances, it might be smart to use some technical equipment. The simplest tool to use is binoculars. For even better chances, telescopes or even observatories are the obvious next steps. To learn more about telescopes, you might consider visiting Christopher Förster’s Space Instruments – Berlin’s only long-range optics store. You might also consider visiting Archenhold Observatory in Treptower park, which remains open during the evening hours on weekends.
- Archenhold Observatory: Alt-Treptow 1, Treptow, website
- Space Instruments: Kettinger Straße 39a, website
When and where to look
In the Northern Hemisphere, the comet’s path will pass very close to the big dipper and the little dipper, which are visible to the northeast. On the nights of January 26 and 27, the comet will be right above the little dipper, meaning that this might be the ideal time to spot it. 21 January is also a promising night, as the new moon will clear up the skies for potentially better views of the comet. Happy hunting!
- If you don’t get the chance to see the comet with your own eyes, check out a free livestream of the comet from the Virtual Telescope Project on 2 February, website