Few things are s exciting as space. Whether because of its utter vastness, all the phenomena, planets, and potential species there are out there to explore and discover some day, or just the fact that space has become the last frontier, it stirs emotions like few other things.
At least, that’s the case for many people and has been since the Space Age began, if not earlier. If people didn’t love space and want to reach out and touch it, they wouldn’t have spent billions on rockets to the moon and capsules floating around the Earth.
In any case, you might soon have an experience to see a comet glowing green without even needing a telescope or binoculars, as a comet is flying by and has “brightened substantially.” NASA, reporting on the comet and when we might be able to see it without a telescope, noted that:
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility this year in early March. Since then the new long-period comet has brightened substantially and is now sweeping across the northern constellation Corona Borealis in predawn skies. It’s still too dim to see without a telescope though. But this fine telescopic image from December 19 does show the comet’s brighter greenish coma, short broad dust tail, and long faint ion tail stretching across a 2.5 degree wide field-of-view. On a voyage through the inner Solar System comet 2022 E3 will be at perihelion, its closest to the Sun, in the new year on January 12 and at perigee, its closest to our fair planet, on February 1. The brightness of comets is notoriously unpredictable, but by then C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could become only just visible to the eye in dark night skies.
A space website called EarthSky, adding more details about where the comet currently is in the night sky and why it might become bright enough that you can view it without a telescope, wrote that:
“Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will reach perihelion, its closest point to the sun, on January 12, 2023. At perihelion, the comet will be 1.11 astronomical units (AU) from the sun. Then, on February 2, 2023, the comet will reach its closest point to the Earth, at a distance of 0.29 AU or 27 million miles (44 million km) away. So January and February are prime times to view this fuzzy, icy visitor from the outer solar system.
“Right now, the comet is in the direction of the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. Its northern location means you’ll have to be in the Northern Hemisphere to spot it. The current estimate of the comet’s brightness is at magnitude 7.4, so you’ll still need optical aid to see it. But if it continues to brighten as it has, it could be magnitude 5 or 6, in the realm of unaided eyes from a dark-sky site, by the end of the month.
“As you can see from the light curve chart at astro.vanbuitenen.nl, the comet has pretty much followed the predicted curve as it brightens and enters the inner solar system. The website is predicting the comet to shine at magnitude 6.8 at perihelion and magnitude 5 at its closest approach to Earth in the beginning of February.”
So if you think of it in the next couple of weeks, make sure to break out the binoculars and take a look at Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)! What makes this one particularly special is that it takes about 50,000 years to complete its orbit around the sun, so the last time it was here was the Stone Age!
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