A comet crosses Earth’s sky for the first time in 50,000 years

Comet “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” from the far reaches of the Solar System 50,000 years later it will cross Earth’s sky againand can even be seen with the naked eye in late January.

It is a small rocky and icy body, just 1 km in diameter, that was discovered in March 2022 by the “Zwicky Transient Facility” (ZTF) project, which operates the Samuel-Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California.

It was detected as it passed through Jupiter’s orbit, and will pass close to the Sun this week.

It will reach its closest perihelion to the Sun on January 12.According to astronomers, it was possible to calculate its trajectory after months of observation.

As a comet approaches the Sun, the ice containing its nucleus turns into a gaseous state and emits a long tail that reflects the light of the Imperial Sun.

As “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” approaches, this bright trail is initially visible from Earth in the Northern Hemisphere.

Thomas Prince, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology who works on the ZTF, explains that the comet shines in all its glory “when it is closest to Earth.”

This is smaller than Hale-Bopp (1997) or Neowise (2020), which were much larger.

With a good pair of glasses, or even the naked eye, Can be seen at nightIf the sky is clear, there is no light pollution and moonlight is not disturbing.

“Maybe we’ll be lucky and it will be twice as bright as expected,” says astrophysicist Nicolas Piver from the Paris Observatory-PSL.

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– Better monitoring window –

The best viewing window will be the weekend of January 21 and 22 and the following week.

During that period it will pass between the constellations Ursa Minor and Ursa Major. It can then be seen in the Southern Hemisphere and then spread out towards the ends of the Solar System, where it may have been born.

According to current models, comets come either from the Kuiper Belt, a large theoretical region beyond Neptune’s orbit, or from the Oort Cloud, nearly a light-year from the Sun at the edge of its gravitational pull.

As for its orbit, Beaver says the comet “is initially coming from the Oort cloud.”

50,000 years ago, “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” had already traveled to the inner solar system and passed close to Earth.

Probably this time “It will leave the solar system once.”Beaver says.

Everything will be ready for viewing, and scientists hope to learn a little more about the composition of comets, especially thanks to the powerful James Webb Space Telescope.

“We are going to observe it everywhere, it is not the comet of the century, but we are happy to observe such comets every two years, because we consider them signs of the formation of the solar system,” explains the astrophysicist.

Misty Tate

"Freelance twitter advocate. Hardcore food nerd. Avid writer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver."

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