50,000 years later, the ‘green comet’ visits again
It may brighten further in the coming days and become visible to the naked eye when it comes closest to Earth on February 2.
TOI captured images of this rare visitor — one of India’s first camera images of the comet — from the dark skies of Sambhar Lake in Jaipur early Saturday morning, using a camera and a star tracker. The comet appears distinctly green with a characteristic faint coma and a faint hint of a tail.
A close-up of the comet shot from Lake Sambhar. source image: Amit Bhattacharya
According to observers from other parts of the world, C/2022 E3 is now regularly reported to be just brighter than magnitude +6, making it technically a naked-eye object. However, naked-eye visibility is likely still limited to extremely dark places under good conditions. This may change in the coming days. Right now, the comet can be easily seen with binoculars from fairly dark rural locations as a greenish fuzzy object.
The visitor can be seen above the northern horizon. For the next few days, the location will be between the North Star (Polaris) and the Big Dipper (Ursa major or Sapt Rishi) constellation. Since moonlight dims celestial objects, the best time to view it is in the early morning hours after moonset. The brightness of comets is difficult to predict, but it is expected to be the brightest in 2023.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers Bryce Bolin and Frank Masci using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) survey on March 2, 2022. Long-period comets such as C/2022 E3 are believed to originate from the outer realms of our solar energy. System, a vast icy region called the Oort Cloud.
The green comet is not expected to be anywhere near as spectacular as the “great comets” with shiny tails, several of which are bright enough to be seen in daylight. The last such object was Comet McNaught in 2007. However, it is still a fascinating visitor to our skies and probably won’t be seen again for the next 50,000 years.
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