Bright green comet streaking across the night sky in January and February
Keep an eye on the night sky. A newly discovered comet that hasn’t passed through our region of the solar system since the last ice age will pay a visit this month and early February, according to astronomy experts.
Though the cosmic snowball — known as Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) – probably won’t be as bright as the 2021″Christmas comet” or the 2020 Comet known as NEOWISENASA experts say it should be clear enough in the coming weeks to be seen by people here on earth only the naked eye.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was first spotted in March 2022 by astronomers using a powerful wide-field camera system as it hurtled through the outer solar system, near Jupiter. Experts say the comet is expected to move closer to the inner solar system – where our planet resides – this month.
When to see the comet
Astronomy experts from EarthSky.org suppose the bright green comet will make its closest approach to the sun on Thursday, January 12, 2023, and will make its closest approach to our planet on Thursday, February 2. On that day, the comet will be about 44 million kilometers away from Earth.
“So January and February are prime times to view this faint, icy visitor from the outer solar system,” says EarthSky.
If you live in the United States or anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, the best time to look for the comet will be in the early morning, when the sky is still dark, according to Preston Dyches of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
EarthSky experts agree that stargazers can see the comet in the hours after midnight and before sunrise. For the best view of this rare cosmic object, people in the Northern Hemisphere should look “in the northern part of the sky below the Big Dipper.” during the early morning hoursaccording to a report IGN.com.
While many experts believe the comet will become bright enough for people to see with the naked eye, some say binoculars or telescopes may be required.
“Whether someone can actually see it depends on several factors, including location and light pollution from both natural and man-made sources,” notes Space.com.
Some say January 21 could be an ideal morning or night to look for this rare comet, as the sky will be very dark – thanks to the new moon phase. The moon will be only 3% illuminated on January 20 and only 1% illuminated on January 22, so those could be good viewing evenings or mornings as well.
What is a Comet?
NASA describes Come eat as “cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust revolving around the sun.”
“When a comet’s orbit brings it close to the sun, it heats up and spews dust and gases into a giant glowing head larger than most planets,” the space agency notes. “The dust and gases form a tail that stretches millions of miles from the sun.”
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered on March 2, 2022 by two astronomers according to the Palomar Observatory in Southern California Space. com. “After collecting enough observations to calculate an orbit, astronomers determined that C/2022 E3 has an orbital period of about 50,000 years.”
That means this comet hasn’t raced through our sector of the solar system for tens of thousands of years.
Live stream video scheduled
Worth noting: if your view is obscured by clouds, or it’s too cold to go outside to look for the comet, you can view it online. A free live stream, hosted by the Virtual Telescope Project, will begin Jan. 12 at 11 p.m. Eastern Time.
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Len Melisurgo can be reached at [email protected].
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