Every year numerous comets make their closest approach to the Sun. Many of them go undiscovered. Many are too dark to be visible without a professional telescope and camera. Many get chased only by the amateur astronomers who enjoy watching moving pixels of light captured by their cameras. But sometimes the comet's and Earth's orbit align just right and we are treated with an amazing celestial display.
One such opportunity presents us this year. For the next 2 weeks we can admire a comet C/2022 E3 ZTF while it slowly moves across the night sky. With a magnitude of around 5.5 it is visible with a naked eye from the dark locations. Last time we were able to observe a comet with a similar magnitude from the Northern hemisphere was in 2015 when a comet C/2014 Q2-Lovejoy made its flyby of the Sun. Star charts with the comet’s location can be found after a quick internet search. One of the most comprehensive sites can be found here. Comet is visible every night after sunset on the North-West sky. As the days progress it will slowly move toward the South-West. One of the best dates to view the comet will be February 11th, when it will appear less than 1̊ from Mars. When viewed, a comet looks similar to Orion Nebula or Great Globular Cluster or Andromeda Galaxy. With the naked eyes it appears as a faint star. Enhanced view by using binoculars offers a clear picture of comet's coma. With binoculars the comet is seen as a gray patch with a bright center. Utilization of the telescope equipment gives an even clearer view of the comet. Beside the coma, the tail is also visible.
In the next few days we are all invited to join astronomers, space enthusiasts and regular people in a hunt for a comet E3 ZFT. If the weather permits, go out on a moonless night. Find a dark location near your area. And try to chase the comet. While you are already outside, admire other objects on the night sky too. Sky is above you. Discover it! Grab the opportunity that comes around only every few years.
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