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A rare green comet will soon approach Earth for first time in 50,000 years

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A recently discovered green comet, whose last journey past Earth was tens of thousands of years ago, will make its next trip past our blue planet in the coming weeks.

Researchers from York University say C/2022 E3, discovered last year by astronomers in Southern California, will reach its closest point to Earth on Feb. 1 at 1:11 p.m. EST.

The rare comet, notable for its greenish tint, will still be about 42 million kilometres away from Earth and stargazers will likely need binoculars or a small telescope to see it, York University researchers say.

They say the last time this comet flew by Earth was about 50,000 years ago – and it may never return.

"It will be going past the constellation Corona Borealis just before sunrise here in Toronto with Feb. 1 being the best day to view it," Elaina Hyde, an assistant professor at York University and director of the Allan I. Carswell Observatory in the faculty of science, said in a news release.

Hyde said the observatory plans to view the comet using its one-metre telescope, described as the largest telescope on a university campus in Canada.

York University assistant professor Sarah Rugheimer, who also serves as the Allan I. Carswell chair for the public understanding of astronomy, said the comet's visibility will also depend on light pollution in certain areas, as well as whether the skies are clear or cloudy.

"Right now, you definitely need good binoculars or a small telescope to see this comet, but towards the end of the month it might be possible to view it with the naked eye," Rugheimer said.

The observatory hosts a Monday evening radio show and online public viewing, as well as a Wednesday night online livestream or "teletube."

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