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How to spot the green comet in Manitoba

Space enthusiasts in the province have a chance to potentially see a rare green comet over the next few days.

The comet was discovered by astronomers in Southern California last year and was found to have last passed Earth about 50,000 years ago.

Mike Jensen, director of the planetarium and science gallery program at the Manitoba Museum, said the time between apparitions and the comet’s color make it unique compared to others.

“The last time it showed up anywhere in sight of Earth, we’re talking about primitive people walking the Earth,” Jensen said. “And then yes, its color. Most people associate comets, they are often referred to as ghosts of the night sky because they often look a bit whitish-blue. This one has a bit of green. Comets are all made up of different types of materials, but it happens to contain a little bit more of some carbon elements.”

Jensen notes that the green hue on the comet will be subtle and compares it to the subtle red that surrounds Mars in the night sky.

Wednesday and Thursday are the best days to see the comet, Jensen said, when it will be closest to Earth – 42 million kilometers away.

“Being so close to us means it’s best visible to us. The added benefit is that it also appears fairly high in the northern sky, making it one of the circumpolar stars of our night sky. In other words, the stars orbiting the Pole Star.”

Well, just because the comet is close enough to be visible doesn’t mean it will be the easiest to see in the night sky, according to Jensen. He said there are a few factors that contribute to a successful sighting.

At first he suggests getting out of town and away from the lights, noting the darker it is the better. When people venture outside of city limits, Jensen recommends people dress warmly and says winter comet-watching is not for the “faint-hearted.”

Second, he said while it might be possible to see the comet with the naked eye, he still suggests bringing binoculars to improve people’s chances. He also recommends checking star charts before leaving to get the most accurate location of the comet.

Eventually, even if all of this is accomplished, Jensen realizes that humans must contend with the light of the moon as it is close to full moon.

“I’m not trying to discourage anyone from going out to see it, but there will certainly be some hurdles to be overcome to discover it for yourself.”

If people don’t want to go outside to see it, there are plenty of resources online to find digital views.

– Featuring files from Michael Lee of CTV News

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