Image credit: Chris Schur
The rare, green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is making its first trip through our solar system in 50,000 years. So, how can you view this glowing beauty before it’s too late?
Discovered in March 2022 by astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin using the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in California, this comet has been brightening for quite some time, finally making its first appearance since the Ice Age. It’s believed that the comet spends most of its time on the outskirts of the solar system, in the Oort Cloud.
Comet ZTF is expected to reach perigee on February 1st, 2023. At this time, the comet will be at its closest point to Earth, meaning it will also be at its brightest magnitude! This will be the perfect time to try and spot the exciting target.
At its brightest, the comet will be visible to the naked eye under dark skies. If you aren’t lucky enough to reside under dark skies, binoculars will greatly aid in your ability to view the comet. You won’t need much magnification to locate Comet ZTF, a pair of 7x50 binoculars will provide enough magnification and a wide enough field of view to get the job done.
Actually locating the comet may pose a bit more of a challenge, as it is regularly changing position. There’s a good chance that your favorite stargazing smartphone app already has Comet ZTF in its database, so be sure to check! Otherwise, on February 1st, we can expect to find the comet near Polaris in the Camelopardalis constellation. Look north after sunset and keep your eyes peeled for a faint, fuzzy, green glow. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to identify its tail trailing behind.
Image credit: Dan Bartlett
If you’d prefer to wait a bit longer for an easier chance at spotting Comet ZTF, it will continue to travel across the night sky and you can find it near Mars around February 12th, although the comet’s brightness will be fading by then.
Keep in mind that comets are unpredictable. If seeing Comet ZTF is important to you, we recommend getting out under the stars sooner rather than later for the best chance of observing the glowing green target. If the skies are not working in your favor, don’t worry, you can still tune in with our team as we live stream our views of the Comet ZTF!
Interested in learning more about what's going on in the sky? Not sure where to begin? Check out our Astronomy Hub to learn more!