Astronomers will have the chance to see a new comet at the end of January

It’s not often that astronomers have the opportunity to spot a comet with the naked eye.

But at the end of this month – or possibly early February – a newly discovered space rock will pass our planet and light up the night sky.

C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered in March last year while inside Jupiter’s orbit, and will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12 and Earth on January 12. February 2.

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it should be easy to spot with binoculars or a telescope.

Watch this month! C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered in March last year while inside Jupiter’s orbit, will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12 and to Earth February 2

KEY FACTS: COMET C/2022 E3

Last visible from Earth: ice age

Closest approach to the sun: January 12

Closest approach to Earth: February 2

Next visible: 50,000 years

Distance to closest approach: 26.4 million miles (42.5 million kilometers) from Earth

Discovered: March 2022

Spotted by: Zwicky’s transitional installation in California

Will it be visible to the naked eye? Maybe

Where to watch: In the morning sky, northeast

Even better, it may even be visible to the naked eye if the sky is dark towards the end of the month.

If so, it will be the first comet visible to the naked eye since NEOWISE passed Earth in 2020, although it won’t be quite as spectacular.

NEOWISE left a long hazy tail, while E3 is likely to appear as a gray streak or patch in the night sky.

However, none match Hale-Bopp’s brightness, which was widely seen in 1997.

Astronomers don’t expect comet C/2022 E3 to visit Earth again for at least 50,000 years, after it was last visible during the Ice Age.

In terms of overtaking our planet, it will by no means be close. In fact, the closest it will come to Earth is 26.4 million miles (42.5 million kilometers) on February 2.

Northern Hemisphere observers will find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves rapidly from northeast to northwest and passes between Ursa Minor and Big Dipper in January.

“This comet shouldn’t be quite the sight that Comet NEOWISE was back in 2020,” Preston Dyches of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a video shared by the US space agency.

“But it’s still a wonderful opportunity to make a personal connection with a chilly visitor from the distant outer solar system.”

Astronomers in the Southern Hemisphere will have to wait a bit longer for a glimpse, though, as comet C/2022 E3 won’t be visible to them until early February.

In March 2022, astronomers discovered the new space rock using the wide-field surveillance camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California.

Since then, the new long-period comet has brightened considerably and is now sweeping across the northern constellation of Corona Borealis in the pre-dawn sky.

Late last year, scientists took the first detailed photo revealing the brighter greenish coma of the new comet C/2022 E3 and a tail of yellowish dust.

Comets are made up of ice, gas and rocks – often described as giant space icebergs – which tend to originate from the outer solar system and travel in a long orbit.

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it should be easy to spot with binoculars or a telescope

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it should be easy to spot with binoculars or a telescope

Northern Hemisphere observers will find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves rapidly from northeast to northwest and passes between Ursa Minor and Big Dipper in January.

Northern Hemisphere observers will find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves rapidly from northeast to northwest and passes between Ursa Minor and Big Dipper in January.

In March 2022, astronomers discovered the new space rock using the wide-field surveillance camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California.  He is pictured here in the center of this image

In March 2022, astronomers discovered the new space rock using the wide-field surveillance camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. He is pictured here in the center of this image

The other large type of space rock, called asteroids, is usually made of metal or rock and can come from anywhere in the solar system, including a large group of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

Comet Neowise was first spotted by – and named after – NASA’s NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope in March 2020.

The icy body then became visible from the Earth’s surface from the northern hemisphere for a short time during the summer of that year, as its proximity to the sun caused it to melt, releasing tails of dust and gas behind him.

During its closest approach on July 23, 2020, it was still 64 million kilometers from the planet.

It then returned to space at about 144,000 miles per hour and will not return for about 7,000 years.

The comet reaches the sun this month, before looping and making its closest approach to Earth

The comet reaches the sun this month, before looping and making its closest approach to Earth

Comet NEOWISE is pictured above Lebanon in an image shared by NASA in 2020

Comet NEOWISE is pictured above Lebanon in an image shared by NASA in 2020

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Explained: The Difference Between An Asteroid, Meteorite, And Other Space Rocks

One asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.

A comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much farther from the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns.

These debris themselves are known as meteoroid. Most are so small that they vaporize into the atmosphere.

If one of these meteoroids arrives on Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally come from asteroids and comets.

For example, if the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

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