This icy body comes from the far reaches of the solar system and visits Earth after 50,000 years. So you could see it with the naked eye.
The Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)also known as “green comet”, continues to increase its characteristic brightness and could be observed with the naked eye this January and February 2023. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most anticipated astronomical events of the year, since it is visible both in the northern hemisphere (Mexico, Spain, Venezuela, Colombia, etc.), Ecuador and the southern hemisphere (Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, etc.).
The icy visitor reached its closest point to the Sun (perihelion) on 12th of January. During that journey, the comet risked collapsing due to the heat of the star. However, it seems that this icy body has resisted and continues to increase in brightness. This was confirmed by the Virtual Telescope Project, which made a live broadcast the night after.
Later, its closest approach to Earth (perigee) will occur between February 1 and 2when it is located 42 million kilometers away.
When will the comet be seen?
Since the beginning of the year, comet C/2022 E3 has been imaged with small telescopes and binoculars. However, as it continues to get closer, its brightness will increase to the point that it could be visible to the naked eye in dark skiesthat is to say: clear, without light pollution on the surface and free of moonshine.
Even so, NASA emphasizes that the brightness of comets is unpredictable, since their approach to the Sun could fragment them or make them even brighter.
Photograph of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) taken on January 18, when the star emanated a brightness of magnitude 6. Photo: Pepe Chambó / Cometography
The following dates are the ones that offer the best opportunity to observe the comet without the help of instruments, since, according to the observation database (COBS), its brightness magnitude (around 6) could be in the range of what is visible to plain sight.
- From 20 to 31 January, in the northern hemisphere and equatorial latitudes (Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela). The comet will be brighter at the end of Januaryso on those dates it will be easier to see with the naked eye.
- From February 1 to 10, in the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere. The comet will have reached its maximum brightness, but the moon will make it difficult to observe in the first few days. From February 6the satellite will appear a little later, so that time could be used.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) captured last week with a telescope by an amateur. Photo: Michael Jäger / Twitter
What time to see the comet from today? Where to look?
- in january. From 4:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. approximately: at first you will be located in the northeastbetween the constellations Boyero and Hercules and in the following days it will move northward, passing through the constellations Draco and Ursa Minor.
Location of the comet in the Peruvian sky in the mornings of January (closer and closer to the horizon). Image: Stellarium
- In February. From 45 minutes after sunset to 3 hours after: watch northward. Initially it will appear close to the horizon, in the constellation Giraffe (Camelopardalis) and in the following days it will rise to the constellation Auriga.
Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF in early February, in the early evening. Image: Stellarium
What is known about comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?
The comet was detected on March 2, 2022 by astronomers. Bryce Bolin Y Frank Masciwho used a telescope from the Zwicky Transient Facility project (ZTF), in United States. It was the third object (E3) identified during the same period. It is also a non-periodic comet. (C), as it last passed 50,000 years ago. By comparison, objects like Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley) orbit the Sun in periods lasting only decades.
Location of comet C/2022 E3 at its closest approach to Earth. Image: Skylive
The celestial body was found as it passed through the orbit of Jupiter, and as it approaches the Sun, the ice in its core evaporates, leaving behind a trail of dust and gas. Meanwhile, its carbon content gives a colorful appearance to its head or coma, which is why it has become known as “green kite”.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has one of two possible origins: the Kuiper belt, a region of celestial bodies that orbit the Sun beyond Neptune; or the Oort cloud, a layer that surrounds the solar system composed mainly of comets, located at a distance so far that it will be reached by Voyager spacecraft only in 300 years.
Editor’s Note: This article was published on January 10 and has been updated ever since based on new information emerging about Comet C/2022 E3 and its passage through the inner Solar System.