The last time Green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) crossed the Earth was during the Paleolithic era.
The green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has been lighting up its comatose tail since November of last year and is now heading toward its perigee when it will allow us to see it with the naked eye in the night sky. Find out how to follow live the comet that appears in the sky every 50,000 years and how to identify it in the American skies.
Green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
The comet was first discovered in March 2022 by astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin using the Zwicky Transitprio Facility (ZTF) at Palomar Observatory in California. At that time, the green comet had already crossed Jupiter’s orbit and was heading straight toward the Sun.
It was last January 12 when it reached its perihelium and got as close as possible to the star of the Solar System. Astrophotographers took advantage of the approach to capture amazing photographs of the body coming from the Oort Cloud, where it can be seen fully ignited with a comatose tail of green and brown, plus an additional tail of ions.
At the time of perihelion, only astronomers with small telescopes could observe the green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has a period of 50 thousand years, so the last time it crossed the Earth was during the Paleolithic era. But soon, the icy body will reach perigee and will be visible with the naked eye in the night sky.
[Photo: Chris Schur]
How to See the Green Comet in the Skies of America
The green comet will reach its perigee on February 2, which means that it is coming directly toward Earth and will be positioned as close to us as possible on that day. It will be at that moment that comet and astronomical object hunters will be able to admire it in real-time in the night sky.
It is expected that as it continues its passage toward the Earth, the comet will become more brilliant and can be admired with the naked eye, without the need for any astronomical observation instrument.
To see the comet in the skies of America, you should look for a site with optimal conditions of darkness, that is, with the least amount of light pollution possible. The darker it is, the easier it will be to find the green comet, although you can always use a pair of binoculars to admire it better.
Just after sunset on February 1 and 2, turn north. Since the perihelion that occurred last January 12, it was expected that it could be seen in that direction albeit with small telescopes and during dawn. But now that the comet is heading toward its perigee, it will become much brighter in the evening sky.
On the evenings of February 1 and 2, just after the Sun sets in the west, look for comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the north. If conditions are optimal, you should be able to observe a green flash with a tail-like trail. Remember that although the comet travels at breakneck speed, from our perspective we will not be able to capture it in rapid motion, that is, it will not appear and disappear in moments, but its mark will be seen in the sky for a long time.
In the image above, you can see a map of the celestial vault to know the exact point where to turn on February 1 and 2. Look for the constellation Camelopardalis, also known as the constellation of the Giraffe and located near Auriga and the two Bears.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera