Rare Green Comets in the High Desert – High Desert stargazers will be able to see a comet that is making its first appearance in almost 50,000 years.
The comet, officially known as “C/2022 E3 (ZTF),” has made its closest approach to the sun and will be visible in our skies between February 1 and February 2, when it makes its closest flyby of Earth, according to NASA authorities.
During the late-night or early-morning hours, watchers will be able to see the comet as it approaches Earth close to the bright star Polaris, popularly known as the North Star. The icy comet, which has brightened progressively as it gets closer to the sun, will be visible from a distance of over 26 million miles.
The comet, which many refer to as the “green comet,” won’t shine as brightly as Halley’s or Hale-Bopp or other well-known comets.
Finding the comet
Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to see the comet using binoculars in the dawn sky for the majority of January. According to NASA, the comet will be visible in the Southern Hemisphere in early February.
The comet might even become visible to the naked eye in dark skies by the end of January, depending on how bright it gets over the next few weeks.
Charlie Ramos, 67, of Victorville, and his family have made plans to travel to a distant area of the High Desert to observe the comet with their Celestron telescope and a few pairs of binoculars.
Ramos told the Daily Press, “We found that the finest spot to watch stars and comets is between Lucerne Valley and Barstow. There isn’t much light pollution outside.
The bright green coma that surrounds comets and their flashing tails of dust and charged particles help to differentiate them from stars.
As a comet approaches the sun, a coma builds around it, causing its ice to sublimate, or transform instantly into gas. When viewed through a telescope, the comet appears hazy as a result.
Astronomers using the wide-field survey camera of the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County made the discovery of the comet on March 2.
According to The Planetary Society, the comet’s orbit around the sun traverses through the furthest reaches of the solar system, which explains why it has taken so long for it to pass by Earth once more.
This Only Occurs Once in a Lifetime
After passing through the inner solar system, little is known about the comet’s future trajectory. But don’t count on seeing C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in Earth’s skies any time soon.
If it does return, it won’t be for at least 50,000 years, according to Jessica Lee, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. “We don’t have an estimate for the farthest it will reach from the Earth yet – estimations vary.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) may never reappear, she continued, because “some predictions say that the orbit of this comet is so erratic it’s no longer in an orbit.” Additionally, it’s possible that the months of January and February will be the only ones in recorded history when people can see C/2022 E3 (ZTF) from Earth.
Because of their extremely lengthy orbital periods, most known long-period comets have only been observed once in recorded history, according to a NASA statement to CBS. “Untold numbers of other long-period comets remain undiscovered. Some of them have such lengthy orbits that when they last travelled through the inner solar system, human species had not yet evolved.”
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