The green glow of Comet E3 will be visible next to Mars Friday night
Days after making its close approach to Earth, Comet E3 is now set to pass by another planet, and it will make for a stirring sight in the night sky -- if the weather cooperates.
An image of Comet E3 captured over the course of 1.2 hours on Feb. 1, 2023. (Michael Borland)
Comet E3 has been the hottest topic in the world of astronomy since the start of 2023, and skywatchers will have one more golden opportunity to spot the green comet as it appears extremely close to the Red Planet over the weekend.
The comet made its closest approach to the Earth on Feb. 1, but it has been hard to see in the sky since then due to the full moon on Feb. 5. Bright moonlight made it difficult to see Comet E3 in the nights leading up to and immediately following the full moon, even with a telescope, but viewing conditions will improve by the weekend with the full moon now in the rearview mirror.
There will be no better opportunity to go comet hunting than on Friday night when Comet E3 appears just above Mars.
Comet E3 is not as bright as it was at the end of January and the start of February, so onlookers may need a pair of binoculars or a basic telescope to see it. Even with the help of a telescope, it will look like a fuzzy star rather than a majestic comet with a long tail.
Mars will be the perfect reference point, making it easy for novice stargazers to pick out the dim comet in the vast, star-studded sky. The planet will glow orange in the southern sky after nightfall and will gradually shift to the western sky by around 11 p.m. local time.
Clouds will be the biggest obstacle to witnessing the comet on Friday night, and AccuWeather forecasters say that nearly half of the country could face poor viewing conditions.
Mainly clear weather will result in good viewing conditions for most of the central United States and part of the Rockies. However, even if cloud-free conditions unfold in Chicago, Denver and Houston on Friday night, light pollution could make it challenging to see the dim comet.
Partly cloudy conditions are in the offing for most of the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest and a slice of the Northeast with breaks in the clouds allowing onlookers to get a few glimpses of the celestial duo after sunset on Friday.
The rest of the contiguous U.S., as well as most of Canada, will be under a veil of thick clouds on Friday night that will obscure the view of Comet E3 next to Mars.
Saturday night and Sunday night will bring two more chances to catch a glimpse of the astronomical duo after sunset. Comet E3 will not appear as close to Mars on these nights, but it should still be in the same region of the sky below and to the left of the Red Planet.
It will become more difficult to see Comet E3 during the second half of February as it moves away from the Earth, becoming dimmer and dimmer in the night sky as it continues on its journey through the solar system.
Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts™ are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories