top of page

How to Find Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF)

Updated: Jan 30, 2023


Comet C/2022-E3 (ZFT)
Comet C/2022-E3 (ZFT) shows distinct Ion tail (blue) and dust tail (Yellow/Orange) - Image Credit Thomas Röell

What is C/2022-e3 (ZTF)?


Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) was not even an object I had ever heard of a week ago, yet this long-period comet has taken the internet by storm. The comet's marvelous green coma and 50,000-year-long orbital period have made headline news, and with images like this one from Thomas Röell @pilot_astro on Instagram, it comes as no surprise.


Where to Look?

The comet is located in the northern skies and is currently visible by telescopic or binocular observation only. The comet is considered a candidate to become a naked-eye comet (anything 6.0 magnitude or less is considered naked-eye) sometime in early February 2023.


Why are there different colors?

Two distinct tails are visible in the image above. The blue tail, or ion tail, always faces directly away from the sun and is made of charged particles interacting with the solar wind. The second or dust tail is created by the debris formed by the material breaking away from the comet and venturing closer to the sun. As a result of this mass loss, comets are notoriously unpredictable in their orbits and their brightness.


Rapid Change

Look closely at the two images below. The one on the left was an image from January 18th, 2023 while the one on the right was taken on January 20th, 2023, just two days later. A significant brightening of both of the comets' tails is visible. This is a REALLY good sign that we may see this comet naked eye VERY soon!


Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF on January 18th, 2023
Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF on January 18th, 2023


Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF on January 20th, 2023
Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF on January 20th, 2023

Please consider Subscribing to the Blog!

I look forward to hearing from you. Please subscribe to my blog to get alerts about Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF and other helpful astronomy content and how to bring the universe closer than you think! - Link at the bottom of the page




Don't want to read? Check out this comprehensive video I made for my friends at Sky Safari!


Why is this our only chance to view this object?

The comet has become more active as it enters the inner parts of the solar system, closer to the sun. As it leaves the solar system, the tails and green coma will eventually disappear, and the comet's core will fade away into the darkness of the outer solar system for a long period of 50,000 years!

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on it's path through the inner solar system.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on it's path through the inner solar system. (Sky Safari 7)

Late January Observing Opportunities: A Circumpolar Comet!

The comet can be seen just over half-way between the two "pointer stars" Merak and Dubhe and the North Star, Polaris on January 29th.
The comet can be seen just over half-way between the two "pointer stars" Merak and Dubhe and the North Star, Polaris on January 29th. (Sky Safari 7)

The comet will rise over the horizon after sunset during the week of January 23rd, 2023, in the evening sky around 6:30 PM. By January 29th, the comet can be seen just over halfway between the two "pointer stars," Merak and Dubhe, of the constellation Ursa Major (The Big Dipper) and the "North Star," Polaris.


The "pointer stars" are traditionally used as a way to star hop from the very easily seen "Big Dipper" to the "North Star" Polaris.


At this point, it is hoped that the comet's brightness will continue to increase, and it may be a naked-eye object. If this occurs, viewing this comet over the next month will provide viewing opportunities for billions of onlookers.


Are you lost when it comes to finding things in the night sky?

Fear not, there's an app for that. Having the right tools to help you locate the comet could be the difference between seeing and not seeing this fantastic celestial wonder. My favorite is Sky Safari, which comes in basic, plus, and pro versions. These are available for iOS and Android devices and provide highly accurate results with an intuitive user interface. The images in this article are screenshots from Sky Safari 7 Pro on my iPad!







Early-Mid February Observations: Conjunction Junction, What's that function?

1) Capella Conjunction - Get out Your Telescopes!

Its location as it passes through the circumpolar region near the North Celestial Pole provides opportunities to view throughout the night in Late January and early February.

Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) makes a close pass by Capella on February 5th
Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) makes a close pass by Capella on February 5th (Sky Safari 7)

On February 5th, 2023, the comet will be within 1.5 degrees of the bright star Capella in the constellation of Auriga. This close encounter will fit easily within the field of view of most amateur telescopes and provide a memorable moment for observers that they will remember for many years.


The comet will reach high into the evening sky, rising to nearly the zenith at 89 degrees of altitude by February 7th. Unfortunately, the comet's peak altitude and likely peak brightness will coincide with the moon's path through the sky, complicating visual observations from even the darkest dark sky sites.


Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) makes a close pass by Mars on February 10th & 11th
Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) makes a close pass by Mars on February 10th & 11th (Sky Safari 7)

2) Mars Conjunction: Another World

But wait, that's not the only close encounter; there are TWO more. The next will be only a few days later, on the nights of February 10th and 11th, when Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) passes within less than 2 degrees of the bright red planet Mars.





Quick Thought Experiment:

If you were standing on Mars on this date, you would also see an Earth conjunction with Comet c/2022-E3 (ZTF) within less than 2 degrees!

As Seen from Mars: Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF comes within 2 degrees of Earth in the Martian Sky! (Starry Night Pro Plus)
As Seen from Mars: Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF comes within 2 degrees of Earth in the Martian Sky! (Starry Night Pro Plus)

Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) makes a close pass by Aldebaran on February 14th (Sky Safari 7)
Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) makes a close pass by Aldebaran on February 14th (Sky Safari 7)

3) Aldebaran Conjunction: Will you be my valentine?


The third and final close encounter comes within approximately 3 degrees of the bright red supergiant star Aldebaran, the "eye of the bull" in the constellation Taurus. Aldebaran is the brightest star of an open cluster of stars known as the "Hyades," which makes up the head of Taurus and is a wondrous sight on its own.


What a great experience to share with your valentine.








Altitude vs. Time Graph of the Sun, Moon, and Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF)
Altitude vs. Time Graph of the Sun, Moon, and Comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF) (Sky Safari Pro)

How do you plan to view comet C/2022-E3 (ZTF)?

  • Visually with my eyes

  • Visually through binoculars

  • Visually through a telescope

  • I would love to take an image!

You can vote for more than one answer.


Please consider Subscribing to the Blog!

I look forward to hearing from you. Please subscribe to my blog to get alerts about Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF and other helpful astronomy content and how to bring the universe closer than you think! - Link at the bottom of the page






Comments


bottom of page