Close encounter of a rare green comet has become a holiday for astrophotographers (photo)

In case you haven’t heard, a rare green comet not seen since the Neanderthals made its closest approach to Earth on Wednesday (February 1st), roiling astronomers around the world.

Just type “comet” into the Twitter search box and you’ll see a plethora of stunning images of a greenish blob shining brightly in all sorts of variations in a star-studded sky.

“A comet last seen in the Stone Age has made its first appearance over Stonehenge,” English Heritage, which manages the iconic prehistoric site in southern England, said in a tweet. (will open in a new tab) accompanying a stunning photo of a comet over a stone circle.

“The green comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was last seen from Earth about 50,000 years ago, long before the stone circle was built.”

Related: How to see the green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) visible in the night sky now as it approaches Earth

The photo was taken by veteran astrophotographer Josh Dury, who told that capturing the image was “one of the most challenging” astrophotography projects he has ever undertaken.

“With thick icy fog over Salisbury Plain [where the stone circle is located]my camera was freezing and there were only brief intervals of clear skies,” Dury wrote in an email to “Fortunately, the comet was visible for the period of time that I was able to take this image, a truly unique opportunity.”

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) glows over Stonehenge.

British astrophotographer Josh Dury captured Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) shining over the famous Stonehenge monument. (Image credit: Josh Dury)

Discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transition Center in California, the Green Comet made its closest approach to Earth on the night of Wednesday (February 1) into the early morning hours of Thursday (February 2) in Europe. On closer inspection, the comet passed within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers) of our planet, equivalent to about 28% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Twitter user Susanoo Harlock shared another stunning image of a comet shining brightly over a Japanese castle.

“Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) descended to Earth for the first time in 50,000 years in 2023,” Harlock tweeted. (will open in a new tab). “I feel very lucky in my life to be able to see such a breathtaking sky show while I’m still alive.”

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Photographer Yasser Al-Zayat shared photos of astrophotographers in Kuwait camping out in the Al Salmi Desert, 75 miles (120 km) northwest of Kuwait, to capture the stunning comet. In images released by Getty, the comet appears as a small greenish dot against a black sky adorned with dozens of shining white stars.

Some of the most tech-savvy astronomers and astrophotographers used their equipment to capture the comet’s rapid movement through the sky as it approached. Chris Lee, who is not only an avid astrophotographer but also a visiting professor of astronomy at the University of Leicester in England and a former Chief Scientist at the UK Space Agency, shared an image showing a bright line of neon green light piercing the night sky.

“The comet is definitely moving fast across the sky these days,” Lee tweeted. (will open in a new tab). “A 30 minute #eaa lifestack could showcase this pretty well #greenlightsaber 👍 #astronomy #astro #comet #cometZTF #comet2022E3ZTF”

The comet, which last visited the inner solar system about 50,000 years ago, made its closest approach to the Sun on January 1st. 12. It will be visible to astrophotographers and amateur astronomers during the first half of February, and then disappear towards the outer solar system and into the Oort Cloud from which it came. Astronomers aren’t sure if comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will ever return to Earth, and even if it does, we won’t see it again.

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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