Comet C / 2022 E3 (ZTF) is approaching Earth – this is how it can be seen in the sky in January

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Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be visible with binoculars, and possibly even with the naked eye. Now he is getting closer to Earth.

FRANKFURT – Experts and amateur astronomers have known about it for several months because it was discovered Comet C / 2022 E3 (ZTF) Already in March 2022. But it is slowly approaching comet from Earth and is getting brighter, which is why it will also be interesting to ordinary people with binoculars from about mid-January.

On January 12, 2023, the comet reached its closest point to the Sun, the so-called perihelion. Then it is still 166 million km from the sun. At this time, the comet is still more than 100 million km from Earth – but this should change in the coming days. After January 12, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) continues to approach Earth and reaches its closest distance to Earth (the so-called perihelion) on February 1. At this time, there is only 42 million km between the comet and the Earth – it is very easy to see it in the sky at this time.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) can be seen in the night sky in January and February 2023.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) can be seen in the night sky in January and February 2023. © AFP / NASA / Dan Bartlett

How bright is Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)? It is likely to be visible to the naked eye

But how bright is the comet? It is difficult to predict the brightness of comets because it is difficult to predict how they will behave as they approach the Sun. Some more promising The comet broke up before it could be clearly seen from Earth. In astronomy, the saying “Comets are like cats: they have a tail and do what they want” applies.

So far, however, the comet has “maintained brightness projections without significant fluctuations,” explains Austrian comet imager Michael Jäger to fr.de of IPPEN.MEDIA. “This is a good sign that it will reach the fifth size category at the end of January or the beginning of February,” the expert continues. “The comet is only visible under a dark mountain sky, but you need a small urban telescope,” Jäger assures.

Experts estimate that Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be clearly visible in binoculars from mid-January to mid-February. It may also be visible to the naked eye from very dark places – a show like that Comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise) in summer 2020 Delivered, but should not be expected. Jäger, a comet expert, also posits the same: “This comet cannot be compared to bright comets, such as Neowise 2020.”

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be in the sky all night

If you want to observe a comet, you’re in luck at C/2022 E3 (ZTF): Then, when it’s most exciting to observe, it’s high in the sky and visible all night. However, in early January, the comet disappears below the horizon at dusk. After midnight, it appeared in the northeast. Over time, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) climbs higher: starting around mid-January, it no longer sets, but is visible in the sky all night.

At the beginning of January, the comet is still close to the constellations of the Northern Crown, Hercules, and the Bear, pulling them a little further each night toward the constellation of the Little Bear (Little Dipper). In the second half of January it can be seen near the North Star for some time. By the time it reaches its closest point to Earth, the comet will be high in the sky and won’t set. However, a bright disturbance factor is also visible in the sky at this time: it’s February 5th full moon and the mond The sky lights up.

The comet should be visible with binoculars by mid-February. The observation could be particularly noteworthy on February 10, 11 and 12: Then comet C / 2022 E3 (ZTF) in the constellation Taurus moves close to the planet Mars During.

This is how you can observe Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the night sky

  • beginning of January: The comet disappears in the evening and reappears in the northeast after midnight.
  • January 12: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has reached its closest position to the Sun and is only 166 million kilometers from the Sun.
  • From about mid-January: The comet can be seen in the sky all night. It is located near the North Star and is easily visible in the sky.
  • February 1st: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has reached its closest location to Earth, just 42 million kilometers away.
  • February 10, 11 and 12: The comet will pass near Mars in the constellation Taurus.
  • Around mid-February: It is getting more and more difficult to see the comet as it moves away from the sun.

Comets are “dirty snowballs” of ice and dust

Comets are among the oldest objects in our solar system. It is made of dust and rock held together by ice. That is why they are called “dirty snowballs”. Comets date back to the time when the planets of the solar system were formed, which is why they are also of particular interest for research.

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As a comet gets closer to the sun, it gets warmer in space and the ice that holds dust and rocks together sublimates—evaporates. Dust and rocks are released – the characteristic comet tail is created. Comets leave trails of dust as they orbit through space Regularly recurring shooting star streams on Earth takes care. (tab)

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