Watch for Neanderthal comet C/2022 E3: getting closer every day

There are masses of them and yet they fascinate us. Because we rarely see comets live. Is it the sheer fear of annihilating them or just a curiosity about something strange not usually seen in the night sky?

Comets appear again and again in the starry sky. None of them will be dangerous to us in the near future – at least the well-known comets. Some of them have not been discovered yet or were only recently discovered, such as comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). We’ve only known him for almost a year.

a second Dinosaur disaster, This time a human catastrophe will not bring us C / 2022 E3. But perhaps a beautiful sight is ours It is only awarded every 50,000 years. More recently, Neanderthals may have been able to observe the green comet. C / 2022 E3 will reach its closest point on February 1, 2023. Then there are approximately 42 million kilometers between the comet and Earth.

Astronomers speak of a distance of 0.28 AU – the acronym stands for Astronomical Unit and describes the average distance of about 149.6 million kilometers between Earth and the Sun. This means that comet C / 2022 E3 will come closer to Earth on February 1, 2023 than Mars will ever come close, as the closest distance between Earth and Mars is 55 million km.

A good view of central Germany: You must have binoculars on hand for observing

It will be mag 5.5 in late January and early February. Magnitude (mag) describes the apparent brightness of a star or celestial body. The smaller the number, the brighter the item. 5.5 mag corresponds to the brightness of the gaseous planet Uranus.

Last chance to view the moon is on the morning of January 31, 2023, when the full moon is set over central Germany Around 4:30 am (CET). The comet can then be seen north of the compass until dawn from about 6 am – it is then more than 50 degrees above the horizon. The prerequisites for good vision are above all weather and a clear sky. Look at MDR’s weather pages for SaxonyAnd Saxony-Anhalt And Thuringia helps.

In the following days, it will be hard to watch C/2022 E3. Because on February 5, 2023, the Earth’s satellite will reach the full moon phase and will light up the sky on the previous and subsequent nights. Dimmer objects are outshined by the reflected sunlight.

“If the weather is good, it will be good to see it now. It is visible in January – and it will remain visible until February 4th. It is not so great to see it from February 3rd to 5th because of the moon. Before February 3rd ( February) or from about February 6th to about February 20th, it should be fully visible,” says Dr. Eike Günther of the Thuringian State Observatory in Tautenburg.

Other Observing Opportunities: Comet C/2022 E3 near Mars

On the nights after the full moon, the comet will shine slightly dimmer at about 6.0 mag, but moonlight won’t disturb the view of other celestial bodies as much. From February 8, 2023, we can once again expect moonless hours in the darkened evening sky. At about 7 p.m., you can then see the comet in a southeasterly direction in the sky for about an hour.

It is difficult to predict how bright comets will be. With a small telescope you have a good chance, with the naked eye not so good chances. At the beginning of February it should also be possible with binoculars.

Ecke Gunther, Thuringian State Observatory, Tautenberg

On the evening of February 10, 2023, the comet will pass Mars as seen from Earth — hence it’s worth looking through binoculars or a good camera with a long lens. You should then set your camera’s exposure time to 20 or 30 seconds. Then you can probably look at an image with a green, fuzzy object, probably with a tail.

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