Stargazers in the High Desert will have the chance to see a comet that is making its first appearance in almost 50,000 years.
Nicknamed “C/2022 E3 (ZTF),” the comet made its closest approach to the sun last week and will appear in our sky on February 1-2. 1 and feb. 2, when it makes its closest pass to Earth, NASA officials said.
As the comet approaches Earth, observers will be able to spot it late at night or before dawn near the bright star Polaris, also called the North Star. The icy comet, which has been steadily brightening as it got closer to the sun, will be seen as it passes nearly 26 million miles away.
The comet, commonly called the “green comet” by many, will not be as bright as other famous comets such as Halley’s or Hale-Bopp’s.
How to see the comet
The comet should be visible through binoculars in the morning sky by stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere and through most of January. Those in the southern hemisphere can see the comet as early as February, according to NASA.
Depending on how bright it gets in the coming weeks, the comet may even become visible to the naked eye in dark skies towards the end of January.
Victorville resident Charlie Ramos, 67, and his family plan to take a pair of binoculars and his Celestron telescope to a remote part of the High Desert to view the comet.
“We found that the best place to see stars and comets is between the Lucerne Valley and Barstow,” Ramos told the Daily Press. “There’s hardly any light pollution out there.”
Comets can be distinguished from stars by their tails of dust and energized particles, as well as the bright green coma that surrounds them.
The coma is an envelope that forms around a comet when it passes close to the sun, causing its ice to sublimate or turn directly into gas. This causes the comet to appear blurry when viewed through telescopes.
The comet was discovered on March 2 by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility Wide Field Survey Camera located at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County.
The comet’s orbit around the sun passes through the outer reaches of the solar system, which is why it has taken so long to pass Earth again, according to The Planetary Society.
once in a lifetime happening
The future of the comet’s journey after its passage through the inner solar system remains unknown. But don’t expect to see C/2022 E3 (ZTF) from the skies of Earth again in your lifetime.
“We don’t yet have an estimate of how far it will go from Earth, estimates vary, but if it does return it won’t be for at least 50,000 years,” said Jessica Lee, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. told Newsweek.
He added that “some predictions suggest that this comet’s orbit is so eccentric that it is no longer in an orbit,” meaning that C/2022 E3 (ZTF) may never return. January and February may also mark the only time in recorded history that humans will be able to view C/2022 E3 (ZTF) from Earth.
“Most known long-period comets have been seen only once in recorded history because their orbital periods are so, well, long,” NASA said in a statement. statement to CBS. “Human eyes have never seen countless more unknown long-period comets. Some have orbits so long that the last time they passed through the inner solar system, our species did not yet exist.”
Daily Press reporter René Ray De La Cruz can be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz
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