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The brightness of comets can be unpredictable. When scientists first discovered the object last year, they knew only that it had potential to be visible from Earth.

“Because each comet is its own living being, you don’t know how it’s going to react until it passes the sun,” Dr. O’Rourke said.

Comet C/2022 E3 (Z.T.F.) made its closest approach to the sun on Jan. 12, and the comet is now steadily brightening as it swings toward the Earth. While the comet won’t pass us until Feb. 2, it is already nearly visible to the naked eye — an encouraging sign for viewing opportunities, said Mike Kelley, an astronomer at the University of Maryland and the co-lead of the solar system working group at the Zwicky Transient Facility.

Still, seeing the comet could “require dark skies and an experienced observer,” Dr. Kelly said.

In addition, comets can always surprise us. Sometimes there can be a big explosion of gas and dust, and the comet might get suddenly brighter even after it has left the sun behind.

To catch the comet, look north.

On Jan. 21, the night of the new moon and thus the darkest skies, the comet will be close to Draco — the dragon-shaped constellation that runs between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper.

Over the following nights, the comet will creep along the dragon’s tail. And on Jan. 30, the comet will reside directly between the Big Dipper’s “cup” and Polaris, the North Star. If you’re accustomed to finding the North Star by following the two stars on the end of the Big Dipper’s cup, then you should be able to spot the comet. Simply scan that imaginary line until you see a faint smudge.

If you’re struggling, the comet might still be too faint or there might be too much light pollution. Try with a pair of binoculars.

“Even with relatively modest binoculars, the powdery, fuzzy or smoky character of the ‘star’ ought to make it clear it’s a comet,” said E. C. Krupp, the director at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

A telescope will help you spot the colors and finer details, including the comet’s glowing coma and lengthy tail.

For anyone living above the 35th parallel — imagine a curving East-West line running from North Carolina through the Texas Panhandle out to Southern California — the comet will be visible all night starting Jan. 22. But it is relatively low on the horizon in the early evening, and it might be better to look for the comet later in the evening or even early in the morning when the comet swings higher in the sky.

Dr. Krupp recommends looking this weekend when the phase of the moon is new, and it therefore won’t cast a glow over the sky. But the comet will become brighter as it gets closer to Earth and will be easier to spot toward the end of the month. If you wait until then, you might want to try early in the morning after the moon has set.

Either way, the hunt will be fun.

“It’s sort of like searching for some endangered species, and then it pops into view,” Dr. Krupp said. “That really is a charmer of an experience.”

Comets are relics of the early solar system and may have been responsible for seeding early Earth with the building blocks for life.

“It really is a situation where we most likely would not exist without their existence,” Dr. O’Rourke said.