A newly discovered comet will soon be seen from Earth, the first in 50,000 years

A newly discovered comet will soon be seen from Earth, the first in 50,000 years

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered last March. It is currently heading toward the Sun and can be easily spotted with good binoculars, and perhaps even with the naked eye during the weekend of January 21-22 and the following week.

Its last visit dates back 50,000 years: Comet “C / 2022 E3 (ZTF)”, coming from the edge of the solar system and was discovered quite recently, will pass close to the Sun this week and will be visible to the naked eye at the end of January.

The petit corps rocheux and glacé, dont le diamètre est estimé à environ 1 kilometer, a eté decouvert in March 2022 by the program of relevance astronomique du ciel Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) which exploite the telescope Samuel-Oschin of the Observatoire Palomar, in ca.

Discovered as it passed through Jupiter’s orbit, the comet is currently heading toward the sun and will reach perihelion, or its closest point to the sun, on January 12, according to astronomers’ calculations.

A phenomenon that can be monitored binoculars and possibly with the naked eye

The celestial body would then be “10%” further from the Sun than from the Earth (about 150 million km), Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory PSL told AFP.

When a comet approaches the sun, the ice in its nucleus hardens and leaves a long trail of dust that reflects sunlight.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) can be seen with the naked eye for the first time in 50,000 years from the end of January.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) can be seen with the naked eye for the first time in 50,000 years from the end of January. © AFP PHOTO / NASA / DAN BARTLETT

This is the bright hair we’ll be able to notice from Earth, as “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” comes toward us.

The comet will reach its peak brightness “when it’s closest to Earth,” explains Thomas Prince, a Caltech professor of physics who works for ZTF.

However, this phenomenon will be less dramatic than during the passage of its congeners Hale-Bopp (1997) or Neowise (2020), much larger.

The star will be easily spotted with good binoculars, perhaps even with the naked eye during part of the night, under a sky without much moon and devoid of light pollution.

“We can have a good surprise and see an object twice as bright as expected,” hopes astrophysicist Nicholas Beaver.

The best viewing window should be the weekend of January 21-22 and the week after.

During this period, the comet will pass between the constellations Ursa Minor and Ursa Major. before diving into the Southern Hemisphere and returning to the outskirts of the solar system, its likely cradle.

remnants of the formation of the solar system

According to current models, comets come from two reservoirs: the Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune, or the Oort Cloud, a vast theoretical region located light-years from the Sun, within the limits of its gravitational field.

According to Nicholas Beaver, “according to the inclination of the plane of its orbit, it will be a long-period comet that originated initially from the Oort cloud.”

The icy visitor isn’t on its first pass near the Sun: An earlier voyage had already propelled it toward our regions, some 50,000 years ago.

Then the comet came back in the other direction, but it didn’t go as far as the Oort Cloud. This time, it will likely end up being “permanently expelled from the solar system.”

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His latest visit will be an opportunity for scientists to understand more about the formation of comets, in particular thanks to observations made by the James Webb Space Telescope.

“We will observe it from every angle. It is not the comet of the century, but we are happy to be able to observe such comets every year or two, because we consider them remnants of the formation of the solar system, ”explains Nicholas Beaver.

Thomas Prince adds that this “rare visitor” will bring “information about the ‘inhabitants’ of our solar system far from distant planets”.

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