It’s all about the “touching” visit of this comet, after 50,000 years of absence

It’s all about the “touching” visit of this comet, after 50,000 years of absence

this star of ice and dust with the sweet name “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)”. This is amazing cometcoming from the limits solar system, He didn’t draw the tip of his tail close sun About 50,000 years ago. A kilometer in diameter – half an emirate Monaco, This celestial body can be seen with the naked eye at the end of January. It will reach perihelion, that is, its closest point to the sun, this Thursday, according to astronomers’ calculations.

will be closer to a land Next February 1, at a distance of just under 42 million km. But what distinguishes this comet? What is the best way to monitor this in the coming weeks? 20 minutes This star that will decorate our night sky is seen thanks to the illumination of Léa Griton, lecturer at the Sorbonne University and researcher at the Paris Observatory.

Why is this comet special?

“We don’t have the opportunity to observe a comet with the naked eye every day,” notes Léa Griton from the outset, adding that this celestial body is “always a pleasure to look at, even for amateur astronomers.” Comets have long fascinated mankind with their tails. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for “hairy star” and its epithet “star brooms” in Japan. The peculiarity of “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” is that it comes from very far away. “In the solar system, all objects are subject to the enormous gravity of the Sun. The orbits of the planets are roughly the same, but comets have a highly refracted elliptical shape, ”explains the researcher at the Paris Observatory. The comet is farthest from its elliptical shape at the edge of the solar system.

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However, “comets often provide us with information about where they came from in the solar system,” Leah Gretton asserts. Astronomers watch these comets carefully to learn more about their formation and the universe. But the projectEuropean Space Agency Scheme for 2029 “Comet Interceptor” (Comet interceptor) should make it possible to find out more. “We will place a small space probe at one of the equilibrium points around the Earth, that is, the place where the bodies stay in place – and intercept a comet that will come from the other end of the planet. Solar system for the first time, ”the astronomer explains. The researchers want to capture a “proto-comet” that has never passed so close to the sun before. It is therefore a rare pearl, because even “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” does not meet these criteria. “The idea is to analyze a comet before it is microwaved, close to the sun, because this can modify its composition,” Léa Griton simplifies.

What do we see when we see a comet from Earth?

Planets, the Milky Way, shooting stars, etc. Void Wonderful. And with their light effects, comets are not left out. It is precisely these tails of light that can be observed from Earth. Léa Griton asserts that “comets have two tails: one is leaking gas and the other is made of plasma”. As they approach the Sun, comets pass through their furnace but also solar wind. Part of his body sublimates, that is, it goes from a solid to a gaseous state, causing these beautiful lines to appear. “As we get closer to the sun, where temperature The lecturer at the Sorbonne explains that the tails are higher and the solar wind is much stronger, and the tails become more intense, allowing us to see them with the naked eye.

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“It is very moving to observe a comet, it is a celestial body that you will never see again in your life. We have the opportunity to see something millions, even billions of kilometers away from us that would continue to exist without us,” Leah Gretton assures. The next visit of “C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will take 50,000 years.” But even more open comets rarely pass by more than once in a person’s lifetime. The most famous of them, Haley, only returns every 76 years and her next visit is scheduled for 2061.

How do you take advantage of this opportunity?

For “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)”, the opportunity begins tonight. Taking into account the distance between a land And the comet, the ideal time to observe it is around February 3rd. But the moon will be full on the fifth, so you’d better try your luck around January 24 or mid-February, ”explains Leah Gretton. Because the brightness of Moon They can be very handicapping when trying to observe celestial bodies that are less bright than they are – the vast majority. However, this comet should be “relatively easy to identify”, especially since it will be visible from the constellation Ursa Major.

In order to better contemplate this celestial body, it is best to stay away from the big cities as light pollution erases every detail of the sky. “In the Paris Observatory, we only notice the Sun because everything else is being degraded by light pollution,” says Léa Griton. The specialist encourages the most motivated to invest in a pair of binoculars: “For this kind of thing, it’s better to have a really good pair of binoculars than a ‘cheap’ telescope. They’re much more practical to reuse during the day, and they’re more portable and let you Easily search for the object with your hands when the telescope has to be set up and fixed.” With good binoculars several satellites can be observed Jupiter And even cad watching loops Saturn ”The expert confirms. For “C / 2022 E3 (ZTF)” it will be necessary above all to pray that the weather is clear because if the sky is full of clouds, the comet will visit it insidiously, out of sight …

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