Green comet: What is it and where can I see it in the skies above Lancashire?
A ‘green comet’ that hasn’t been witnessed from Earth in tens of thousands of years has reemerged in the night sky.
Known as comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), it hasn't been observed from our planet since the time of the Neanderthals - about 45,000 years ago.
CLICK here to see pictures of a mystery fireball above Preston
So how can you spot this comet - which won’t be seen again for another 50,000 years - for yourself? Here is everything you need to know.
Why is the comet ‘green’?
Comets are ancient balls of ice and dust that orbit the Sun on elliptical orbits. They warm up as they get closer to the sun, converting their surface ice into gas, which disperses and displaces dust in the process.
It is this process that gives comets their distinctive “tails”, which can appear to stretch out behind them.
Images of comet C/2022 E3 have already been captured by astronomers, and show a faint green glow that is thought to be caused by the presence of diatomic carbon, bonded pairs of carbon atoms which emit green light when stimulated by the Sun’s ultraviolet energy.
When is the best time to see it?
It can already been seen, according to John Hooper of the Preston And District Astronomy Society.
"It's visible now with a telecope or a pair of binoculars", he said.
"To see it you need clear skies and you're better off somewhere with very little street lighting or light pollution.
"You don't need to go high, but somewhere like the Trough of Bowland might be good."
John warned potential skygazers that the comet might not appear "particularly" green, but that the occasion was worth noting because not many comets come close enough to earth to get a good view.
It is thought that the comet will make its closest pass of Earth at a distance of 27 million miles, on Wednesday and Thursday of next week (February 1 and 2).
Early in the morning, just before dawn, is the optimum time to view.
Where to look
The comet is visible in the northern hemisphere below and to the left of the handle of the Plough constellation.
Next week, it will sail by the pole star, which is the brightest star in Ursa Minor.
Smartphone apps and websites such as Star Chart, Sky Safari and SkyView can help you pinpoint it’s journey.