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. Without a doubt, it is the most anticipated astronomical event of the month and one of the most important of the year, since it will be visible both in the countries of the northern hemisphere, such as Mexico, Spain and Colombia; and in those of the southern hemisphere, such as Peru, Argentina and Chile.
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. To find out if it has ‘survived’, astronomers from the Virtual Telescope Project have reprogrammed its live broadcast for this January 13 at 11:00 pm (Peruvian time).
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.
However, NASA emphasizes that the brightness of comets is unpredictable, since their approach to the Sun could fragment them or make them even brighter, as outlined above.
The following dates are the ones that offer the best opportunity to observe the comet without the aid of instruments, since its brightness magnitude (around 6) could be in the range of what is visible to the naked eye.
- 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, but you will have to wait for the moon to hide.
- 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 6 to 8the satellite will appear a little later, so that time could be used.
What time to see the comet from today? Where to look?
- in january. From midnight to 1 hour before sunrise: At first you will be located in the northeastbetween the constellations El Boyero and Hercules and in the following days it will move northward, passing through the constellations Draco and Ursa Minor.
- 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.
What is known about comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?
The comet was detected on March 2, 2022 by astronomers Bryce Bolin and Frank Masci, who 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.
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.