A photo of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) taken with a...

A photo of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) taken with a 12-inch telescope in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on Dec. 29. Credit: © 2022 John Chumack / Galactic Images www.galacticimages.com

Look, up in the sky!

It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime green comet that Long Islanders can view through the first week of February in the night sky.

Described as a dirty snowball, the last time the comet was this close to Earth’s viewing area was roughly 50,000 years ago, according to NASA. The comet is expected to come within 26 million miles of Earth on Wednesday before it leaves, possibly not returning for millions of years.

Known currently as comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the green celestial object is thought to have come from what is known as the Oort cloud, a theoretical cloud of icy objects that exist in the farthest reaches of the solar system well beyond Pluto.

Steve Bellavia, a staff member at the nonprofit Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, told Newsday on Sunday that the audience members who viewed it at the observatory on Saturday were in awe of the comet.

“It seems like everybody that came last night came with one purpose — to see the comet,” Bellavia said. “It’s funny, almost all comets are green. But they were all hyped up, so we had it displayed on the screen with a camera. We had the camera going on one screen and we had the eyepiece where people could physically come up and see it. But everyone was excited.”

The comet glows green once the sun hits it due to the amount of carbon and nitrogen around it, according to Bellavia.

Stargazing Long Islanders can see this comet anytime from now until the end of the first week of February, with the night of Feb. 3 being the brightest and closest the comet will be, Bellavia said. Viewers will need a pair of binoculars or a telescope to see the comet, as it will not be visible to the naked eye.

The comet also is in close visual proximity to the North Star, which is sure to be a treat for stargazers.

“Most of the comets that I’ve taken pictures of are once-in-a-lifetime, and this was once-in-a-lifetime, too,” said Bellavia, who has taken pictures of almost 50 such comets since 2013. “This one had a really long ion tail. It might be one of the longest, not the longest, but one of the longest ion tails I’ve seen in photographs. It was pretty neat.” With AP

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