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Comet spotted by NASA last year to be seen this month

by Coffee Table Science

Researchers at NASA revealed that comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was spotted inside Jupiter’s orbit in March 2022 will be seen very near to the sun on January 12. It will be closest to February 2 this year.

Image science.nasa.gov

Comets are made of ice, gas and rock and are often described as giant space icebergs that tend to arise in the outer solar system and move in the long orbit. Not all comets can be seen with the naked eye but if this comet maintains its current trend, it will be easily easily seen with binoculars or a telescope in a clear space. 

The Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

This comet was seen from Earth last time in the Ice Age and will be visible after 50,000 years, so it is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to spot this comet. At its closest distance, the comet will be 26.4 million miles it  which is equal to 42.5 million kilometers from Earth. It was discovered in March 2022 by The Zwicky Transient Facility in California.

It is likely that the comet will be seen by the naked eye 
towards the northeast in the morning sky. If this does come to pass, it will be the first comet to do so since NEOWISE, a long-period comet, which last zipped past Earth in 2020 quite marvelously. 

Image Pexels

NEOWISE C/2020 F3 left a long, smoggy tail, whereas E3 is likely to appear as a grey streak or smudge in the night sky. Still, both of them are unable to match the brightness of Hale-Bopp, which was seen in 1997.

The icy body NEOWISE C/2020 F3 then became visible from the Earth’s surface from the northern hemisphere fora short time only as in the summer season the sun caused it to melt releasing tails of dust and gas behind it. It was 64 million miles from the Earth on July 23, 2020, which was its closest outlook. It then went back into space at around 144,000 miles per hour and won’t return for some 7,000 years.

When and where can you see Comet C/2022 E3?


Astronomers and scientists don’t expect Comet C/2022 E3 to zip past Earth again for at least another 50,000 years, since it is computed to be last seen in the Ice Age. Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere will see the comet in the morning sky as it moves quickly from the northeast to the northwest and passes between the Little and Big Dippers during January. 

In the Southern Hemisphere, people will have to wait a little more to catch sight as Comet C/2022 E3 would not be visible to them until the start of February.

If stargazing interests you this is an amazing opportunity to be a personal witness to an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system. At the end of last year, scientists clicked the first clear photo revealing the new Comet C/2022 E3, a brighter greenish coma and a yellowy dusty tail.

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