Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is putting on a spectacular display as it speeds through the inner solar system, and now is the time to start searching for it.
This stunning object was seen in March by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in Southern California. Up until its closest approach by the sun on January12, it was rushing toward the sun. After that, it began its lengthy trek back to the Oort Cloud at the solar system’s outskirts.
Joe Rao of Space.com and the Hayden Planetarium in New York said it won’t be back for another 50,000 years. The months of January and February, when it seems to be at its brightest, are thus ideal for a visit.
From what I’ve read, the comet is already visible to the naked eye in places with little or no light pollution.
The latest reported observed magnitude for Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is 5.9. Naked eye visibility from a dark site.
— David Blanchflower BSc (@DavidBflower) January 20, 2023
On February 1st, when the comet will be at its closest to Earth, it may become a magnitude five object, brilliant enough to be seen with the naked eye (though binoculars and dark skies will assist).
Attached is a composition of the evolution of comet C/2022 E3.
I have labeled the days, distance from the Sun and distance from Earth. Courtesy Didac Mesa Romeu. pic.twitter.com/fzq4AAMLJe
— Con Stoitsis (@vivstoitsis) January 5, 2023
Comets are notoriously erratic, changing brightness, fading out, or disintegrating with little to no notice. The coma, or tail, of Comet ZTF has been seen to seemingly split in two, a phenomenon astronomers refer to as a “disconnection event.”
It has also been seen with a “anti-tail,” an optical illusion that gives the comet the appearance of having tails on opposite sides of its nucleus.
Up until February 1st, the comet should continue to (hopefully) brighten, making it easier to observe with binoculars or a backyard telescope. The best method to find it is via a smartphone app like Stellarium or a website like In The Sky.
Send them to me on Twitter at @EricCMack if you take any particularly memorable pictures.
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