Attention stargazers! A spectacle is happening in the night sky these days that won’t happen again anytime soon: comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is approaching its closest point to Earth. The last time it was 50,000 years ago, so the celestial body is also called the Neanderthal comet.
According to the Star Friends Association, the comet is currently “only” 42 million kilometers away and visible from Earth. To do this, look north and look for a blur between the constellations Ursa Major and Cassiopeia. With a telescope, you can even see the shimmering greenish shell of particles, also known as a coma, that surrounds the comet about one kilometer in diameter. However, to the naked eye, it almost does not differ from the stars in the night sky.
The best time to see a comet
After the full moon on February 5, bright moonlight further obscures visibility. The new observation window does not open until the second week of February. However, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) then shines less brightly and has changed its position. Around February 10, it can be found near Mars, around February 15 near Aldebaran in Taurus.
In early March, the comet says goodbye to the night sky. He will not return for 50,000 years – if at all. Experts still disagree about the future of the celestial body.
Why C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?
Unlike other comets, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was not named after its discoverer, but was given a code name. C denotes the type of comet, 2022 is the year, and E3 is the fortnight of the discovery. There is also the acronym ZTF, named after the Zwicky Transient Facility research program that C/2022 E3 (ZTF) first saw last year.
Comets are remnants of the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They are made up of water ice, frozen gases and dust.
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