January 28, 2023

Brighton Journal

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Stargazers will have the opportunity to see a new comet at the end of January

Stargazers don’t often have the opportunity to spot a comet with the naked eye.

But at the end of this month – or maybe the beginning of February – a newly discovered space rock will whizz past our planet and light up the night sky.

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

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if they continue their current trend in brightness, they should be easy to spot with binoculars or a telescope.

Find this month! Discovered in March of last year while inside Jupiter’s orbit, C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12th and Earth on February 2nd.

Key facts: COMET C/2022 E3

Last appearance from Earth: ice Age

Closest approach to the sun: January 12th

Closest approach to Earth: Feb 2

Next visible: 50,000 years

Distance at nearest approach: 26.4 million miles (42.5 million km) from Earth

Discover: March 2022

Spotted by: Zwicky Transit Facility in California

Will it be visible to the naked eye? Maybe

Where to search: In the morning sky to the northeast

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

If that’s the case, it would be the first comet visible to the naked eye since NEOWISE raced past Earth in 2020, though it won’t be anywhere near as spectacular.

NEOWISE left a long, fuzzy tail, while E3 will likely appear as a gray streak or smudge in the night sky.

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However, neither of these matches the brightness of the Hale-Bopp, which was widely seen in 1997.

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

In terms of passing on our planet, it will not be close. In fact, it came closest to Earth at 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 the Little and Big Dippers during January.

“It is not expected that this comet will be the scene where Comet NEOWISE returns in 2020,” Preston Dyches of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a video released by the US space agency.

But it’s still a great opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system.

Stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere will have to wait a little longer to catch a glimpse, because 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 Survey Camera at the Zwicky Transit Facility in California.

Since then, the new long-period comet has brightened dramatically and is now sweeping across the northern constellation Corona Borealis in the predawn sky.

At the end of last year, scientists took the first detailed image revealing the new, brighter greenish coma Comet C/2022 E3 with a yellow dust tail.

Comets are made of ice, gas, and rock — often described as giant space icebergs — that tend to appear in the outer solar system and move in long orbits.

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

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

In March 2022, astronomers discovered the new space rock using the Wide Field Survey Camera at the Zwicky Transit Facility in California.  She's pictured here in the center of this photo

In March 2022, astronomers discovered the new space rock using the Wide Field Survey Camera at the Zwicky Transit Facility in California. She’s pictured here in the center of this photo

The other main type of space rock, called asteroids, tend to be made of metal or rock and can come from anywhere in the solar system — including the large group of asteroids that lie between Mars and Jupiter.

Comet Neowise was first observed by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Telescope (NEOWISE) — and named after it — in March 2020.

Then the icy body became visible from Earth’s surface from the Northern Hemisphere for a short time in the summer of that year, as its proximity to the Sun caused it to melt, unleashing tails of dust and gas behind it.

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

Then it went back into space at about 144,000 miles per hour and wouldn’t return for about 7,000 years.

The comet reaches the Sun this month, before it orbits it and approaches Earth

The comet reaches the Sun this month, before it orbits it and approaches Earth

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Explanation: The difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

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

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

a meteor It is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere as the debris burns.

This same wreck is known as a meteor. Most of it is so small that it just dries up in the atmosphere.

If any such meteorite reaches Earth, it is called a meteor.

Meteors, meteoroids, and meteoroids usually originate from asteroids and comets.

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