Green comet C / 2022: this is how it can be observed now |

Status: 01/24/2023 11:45 AM

Neanderthals were still alive when they were last seen 50,000 years ago. Comet C/2022 E3 is now approaching Earth again. Its greenish glow can be seen with the naked eye under favorable conditions.

In the next few days, the comet can be seen better, because it is currently approaching Earth in astronomical terms, that is, at a distance of “only” about 42 million kilometers. On February 1st, it reaches its closest point to Earth. With a bit of luck, it can even be observed with the naked eye—a rare opportunity indeed, because C/2022 E3 (ZTF) only comes from Earth every 50,000 years.

What is the best appearance of comet C/2022 E3?

People lie on a meadow in the Nossentiner / Schwinzer Heide Nature Park at night and watch the stars.  © TMV Photo: Markus Kirchgessner

The dark countryside is conducive to observing – as here in the star garden in Nossentiner Heide.

If you want to see the greenish glowing comet, you should turn north-northeast on a clear night. There the comet is moving up from the horizon toward the Little Dipper. “It should be dark,” says Dirk Steinhauer of the Greifswald Observatory. “Then the comet can be seen with binoculars and with the naked eye.” The best time to view is probably the night of January 31st to February 1st, at 4 a.m. after the moon sets—provided the sky is clear. But the comet can also be observed on the nights before and after this time starting at 10 p.m. – best with a telescope.

The comet appears clearly again on February 10 and 11

After February 1st, C/2022 visibility will decline again as the waxing moon overtakes it. During this time, the comet will fly past Earth towards Mars. Around February 10 and 11, Mars will pass by and, with a bit of luck, be seen again.

Why is Comet C/2022 E3 green?

According to the German Aerospace Center, the green color is caused by an interaction between the gas and the sun’s heat when a comet approaches it. Only the sun’s heat causes the comet to glow – without that glow we wouldn’t be able to recognize it in the darkness of space.

How did the comet get its name?

There’s a reason for the comet’s somewhat vulgar name: the letter C stands for the fact that the comet has an orbital period of more than 200 years. The 2022 E cluster indicates that the comet was discovered in 2022, in the first half of March (E) and as the third comet (3) in this period. The suffix ZTF stands for the “Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF)” program of an observatory in California that discovered the comet.

Although its existence has only been known for a year, C/2022, like all comets, is already several billion years old. It comes from the early days of our solar system, and its orbit takes it to the edges.

Comet Watch: Good locations in the north

The comet can be observed especially well in rural areas where there are few light sources. Mountains and hills also offer advantages: the higher observers are positioned, the greater the section of the sky. The following cities and regions in northern Germany offer good conditions for observing comets:

  • Elbtalaue (Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania)
  • Heath with Wilseder Berg (Lower Saxony)
  • High altitudes in the Harz Mountains (Lower Saxony)
  • Westerhiver (Schleswig-Holstein)
  • Western part of the island of Fehmarn (Schleswig-Holstein)
  • Belorm Island (Schleswig-Holstein)
  • Klützer Winkel and its surroundings (Mecklenburg-West Pomerania)
  • Mecklenburg Lake District (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)

More information

People lie on a meadow in the Nossentiner / Schwinzer Heide Nature Park at night and watch the stars.  © TMV Photo: Markus Kirchgessner

The natural park offers many lakes, hiking and biking trails, and another special feature: the Star Garden. more

Partial lunar eclipse over the port of Hamburg.  © picture alliance / rtn - Radio Telenord |  rtn, frank bründel Photo: frank bründel

The total lunar eclipse in Hamburg on Monday morning was hard to notice. But you can see the blood moon. more

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North Journal | 01/22/2023 | At 19:30

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