Comet appears for the first time and probably only in recorded history

Comet appears for the first time and probably only in recorded history

Comet appears for the first time and probably only in recorded history

The new year has only just begun, but the cosmos is already on the verge of making history in 2023. A comet discovered less than a year ago has traveled billions of miles from its presumed origin at the edge of our solar system and will be visible in just a few hours. several weeks during what will probably be the only recorded appearance.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was first seen in March 2022 as it made its way through Jupiter’s orbit. According to NASA, it is a long-period comet believed to have originated from the Oort cloud, the most distant part of Earth’s solar system that is “like a big, thick-walled bubble made of icy bits of space debris” and could get even bigger. become mountains. The inner edge of this region is believed to be between 2,000 and 5,000 astronomical units (AUs) from the sun — between 186 billion and 465 billion miles.

This means that C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has made a rare, once-in-a-lifetime journey to be close to Earth.

“Most known long-period comets have only been seen once in recorded history because their orbital times are so, well, longsays NASA. “Numerous unknown long-period comets have never been seen by human eyes. Some orbits have such long orbits that the last time they passed through the inner solar system, our species did not yet exist.”

A recent comet of this type, C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, previously visited the inner solar system and came close to Mars in 2014but according to the space agency, it won’t return for about 740,000 years.

Jessica Lee, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, explained News week that the E3 comet could be a similar situation.

“We don’t yet have an estimate of how far it will get from Earth — estimates vary — but if it does return, it won’t be for another 50,000 years,” she said. “…Some predictions suggest that this comet’s orbit is so eccentric that it’s no longer in orbit — so it won’t return at all and just keep going.”

Now, the recently discovered E3 comet, which has been seen with a bright greenish coma and “short wide” dust tail, is set to come closest to the sun on January 12. It will make its closest approach to Earth on February 2.

Astrophotographer Dan Bartlett managed to snap a picture of the comet from his backyard in California in December. He was able to see “intricate tail structure” in the comet’s plasma tail, he said, and “conditions are improving.”

Comet appears for the first time and probably only in recorded history

Dan Bartlett was able to snap a picture of the comet from his home in California on Dec. 19. / Credit: Dan Bartlett/NASA

If all goes well and the comet continues its current trend in brightness, NASA said it will be easy to see using binoculars. It is also possible that it can be seen with the naked eye away from city lights. Those in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to see the comet in the morning, while those in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see it in early February, NASA said.

“This comet is not expected to be the spectacle that Comet NEOWISE was in 2020,” the agency added. “But it’s still a great opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the far outer solar system.”

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