Comet ZTF has been visible to the naked eye since this weekend

Comet ZTF has been visible to the naked eye since this weekend

Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF, coming from the outskirts of the Solar System, has been visible to the naked eye since this weekend. Dan Bartlett/AFP

For the first time in 50,000 years, comet C / 2022 E3 ZTF, coming from the edge of the solar system, can be seen in France until the beginning of February.

It was predicted 50,000 years ago. Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF, coming from the outskirts of the solar system, has been visible to the naked eye since the end of this week. This small, rocky, icy object was discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) sky program that operates the Samuel-Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory in California. Its last near-land passage dates back to the Paleolithic and Neanderthal ages. Astronomy lovers will be able to observe this extremely rare celestial body until the beginning of February. It should pass as close to Earth as possible (that is, 42 million km), around February 1. Le Figaro It guides you to try to locate this luminous star.

What does ZTF look like?

When comet As it approaches the Sun, the ice in its core crackles and releases a long trail of dust that reflects sunlight. Nicknamed coma, this lustrous hair can be seen from Earth. The small rocky object, estimated to be about a kilometer in diameter, was discovered while passing through the orbit of Jupiter. Then it headed toward the sun until it reached perihelion, its closest point to the sun, on January 12. It was the heavenly body then “10% more” Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory PSL told AFP that it is farther from the Sun than Earth (about 150 million km).

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ZTF will be at the peak of its glory When will it be closest to Earth?Thomas Prince, a professor of physics at Caltech, told AFP. The celestial body is green because the sun’s ultraviolet radiation has been absorbed by a molecule from the comet, diatomic carbon, the American Daily defines, The New York Times . This reaction gives ZTF its own color and makes it, in fact, more recognizable.

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How do you monitor it?

If a comet could be easily identified thanks to binoculars or a telescope, it would be visible to the naked eye during the night under the sky without much of the moon and, of course, devoid of light pollution. Eric Lagadec, an astrophysicist at the Côte d’Azur Observatory who specializes in stardust, advises observers to stay away on his Twitter account. Cities and light pollution to take advantage of this phenomenon.

The specialist specifies that ZTF will “to pass between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper” And therefore it is necessary “Find an unobstructed view to the north.” Experts say the best viewing window is this week. It should be closest to Earth in early February before it plunges into the southern hemisphere and back into the outer reaches of the solar system.

When will he return?

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 the inclination of the plane of its orbit, it will be a long-period comet originating initially from the Oort Cloud.According to Nicolas Beaver, from the Paris-PSL Observatory. During its previous pass near the sun, 50,000 years ago, the icy visitor left in the other direction, but without going into the Oort Cloud. This time it could be Definitely kicked out of the solar system.

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So scientists will take advantage of what could be his last visit to try to better understand the composition of comets, thanks to observations James Webb Space Telescope. “We will be watching 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 to be remnants of the formation of the solar system.”, detailed by Nicola Beaver. This is amazing “rare visitor” will bring “Information about the distant ‘inhabitants’ of our solar system and distant planets”, Thomas Prince of the California Institute of Technology told AFP.

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