This could be the final time we see C/2022 E3 in our life since it will go back out into deep space after completing one orbit of the sun and will never come back.
A recently found comet will pass rather near the Earth in the following weeks. The green comet’s scientific name is C/2022 E3, according to NASA (ZTF). The comet will make its closest approach to Earth in 50,000 years on February 1 as it passes by within 28 million miles (42 million kilometers) of our planet. It’s understandable why this opportunity is so highly appreciated because it comes along only once in a lifetime. What is the cause of this?
When was the Comet first seen?
Using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California, astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin discovered an object on March 2, 2022, that they initially mistook for an asteroid. Later observations revealed that this star-like object was a comet because of its extremely tightly compressed coma. It was given the identification C/2022 E3 since it was the third such object detected in the fifth half-month of the year (A, B, C, D, and E) (ZTF). The comet was then 399 million miles (643 million kilometers) from the sun, or just inside Jupiter’s orbit.
C/2022 E3 has an orbital period of about 50,000 years, according to calculations made by astronomers after sufficient observations were acquired to compute an orbit. It appears to have made its final trip through the inner solar system during the Upper Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age.
But this could be the final time we see C/2022 E3 in our lifetime. According to the most recent orbital elements, the comet is currently following an orbital route with an eccentricity of 1.00027, or a parabolic orbit. Since this astronomical orbit is not closed, C/2022 E3 will go back out into deep space after completing one orbit of the sun and will never come back.
The Bright Green Comet!
There are two broad groups into which comets can be divided: The typical number of bright comets that can thrill those of us without binoculars or telescopes is two to three times every 15 to 20 years. Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) was the most recent of these to do so in July 2020.
Then there are the usual comets, which are typically only visible through a telescope or with strong binoculars. The great majority of comets belong to this category, however as C/2022 E3 (ZTF) may briefly teeter on the edge of naked-eye sight, it may finish up ranking as particularly bright in comparison to most frequent comets.
The likelihood of seeing the comet will depend on several circumstances, including location and light pollution from natural and manmade sources. Even though many skywatchers will undoubtedly seek to view the comet, visibility will rely on several variables.
Viewing C/2022 E3
Currently rising in the northeast just after midnight, C/2022 E3 is a predawn object in the Corona Borealis constellation. Its declination is close to +34°. The comet had changed direction by several degrees to the northwest by January 12, the day of its closest approach to the sun. It will continue to move against the background stars, gradually moving westward as it gets closer to Earth. On the 14th, the comet will enter northern Boötes, and by the 20th, it will become circumpolar (remaining above the horizon at all times) for most mid-northern latitude sites.
On the evenings of January 26 and 27, it is conveniently located crossing several degrees to the east of the Little Dipper’s bowl. It will be 3.5° to the upper right of orange Kochab on the evening of January 27, the brightest of the bowl’s two outer stars. It will be within the confines of the hazy and faint constellation of Camelopardalis on the evening of February 1 when C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is traveling closest to Earth.
By February 5, it will pass just a few degrees to the west of the magnificent yellow-white star Capella. The following night, on February 6, it will be within the triangle that makes up “The Kids” asterism in Auriga, and it will be nearly overhead at about 8 p.m. local standard time.
The brightness of C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which will come closest to Earth at the beginning of February, has been predicted to vary in a variety of ways.
By the third week of January, the comet should become faintly visible to the naked eye, assuming that its brightening trend continues on course.
Significant Caveats to Remember
Lots of people will likely try to track C/2022 E3 later this month using binoculars and handheld telescopes. But whether or not you see it depends a lot on where you’re looking. Skywatchers anticipate that seeing this comet from areas with a lot of light pollution will prove to be a challenging endeavor. Finding the comet could be a bit of a struggle, even for those who are fortunate to have a dark, starry sky. This is due to the comet’s tendency to seem diffuse and rather huge in angular size as it approaches Earth. By the beginning of February, it may resemble the moon in size.
Many people with limited observing experience will vehemently contest the forecasts for an object of fifth or sixth magnitude. But keep in mind that you’re looking for anything that is dispersing its light over a somewhat wide area rather than a crisp star-like object. Your own two eyes, especially if you use averted vision, will be the best tools for finding the comet in a fully dark, light-polluted sky.
Is C/2022 E3 An Astronomical Illusionary?
Recent images indicate the comet to have two tails, one of which is astonishingly lengthy, and to have a distinguishing greenish tint. Sadly, long-exposure photos often provide the wrong impression. They highlight hues that aren’t immediately visible, for starters.
Unfortunately, the majority of comets’ gas tails are lengthy, stringy thin, and quite faint; they are striking in images but unimpressive in person. And with C/2022 E3, that is what they are currently observing. A brighter dust tail is also being released by the comet; however, it is now quite short and stubby.
Therefore, it is expected that most people who eventually see C/2022 E3 in their binoculars or telescopes will describe it as a nearly circular cloud that appears substantially brighter and more condensed near the center. Its dust tail may also be seen by some as a slight extension of the comet’s coma, although it is not the same as the tails or appendages displayed by other larger and brighter comets.
The moon will also have an impact on any possible comet sights that you may have.
Your ability to see the comet in the morning sky will be hampered by its strong light from now until about Jan. 15, but after then it will gradually fade to a declining crescent and become less of an obstruction. The new phase will begin on January 21. A few days later, it will reemerge in the western evening sky as merely a thin crescent, but by January 28, it will be substantially obstructing comet sightings once more by lighting up the sky in the early hours of the night, exactly as it is at its brightest.
The moon will descend later in the evening, leaving the sky black before dawn, but as the full phase on February 5 approaches, the interval between moonset and the start of dawn will become substantially shorter.
Dark sky opportunities become available in the evening sky after a full moon. On February 7, there will be a period of darkness between the end of evening twilight and moonrise, as seen from mid-northern latitudes. Three nights later, C/2022 E3 will be free of any lunar obscuration from the end of evening twilight until around 11 p.m.