Today is the day! If you need to get your glasses graduated, hurry to your optician, before you miss the green comet. With the technical name C/2022 E3 (ZTF), the celestial body will pass very close to Earth between February 1 and 2, leaving behind it a characteristic bright green trail.
The comet is one of thousands of atmospheric objects that are close to Earth, and it has not been seen by our planet for 50,000 years. A celestial body discovered by astronomers Bryce Bolin and Frank Masci at the Palomar Observatory in California, using the Zwicky Transient Facility telescope. We can learn more about this event thanks to an interview published in The Washington Post.
How was the green comet discovered?
Bryce Bolin discovered the comet’s existence in the same way as other discoveries of atmospheric objects: by chance (and by doing a lot of research, of course). Astronomers like him routinely inspects virtually every day for developments in outer space. Making use of the Zwicky Transient Facility, which takes hundreds of photographs daily, and an AI computer system to detect comets, Bolin ended up getting lucky on March 2, 2022.
5 photos were the ones that marked a before and after in the history of the astronomer. After analyzing them, the scientist detailed that there would be at least an 85% probability that the captures taken by the telescope corresponded to a comet. And the doubts are not for less, since, without the necessary information, it could be either a comet or an asteroid.
Bolin, who wanted to be sure before making a public announcement, contacted the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union, requesting another telescope to corroborate his data. Other astronomers were able to confirm that the celestial body had a “coma” around it, a combination of gas and dust that forms in comets, thus confirming their suspicions. Bolin would officially announce the discovery of the green comet a week later.
Where can the comet be seen?
According to Bolin, we can find the comet if we look south of Ursa Major, near the constellation Camelopardalis. “If you can find the North Star, then you can track it directly south,” the astronomer says. When you look at it, both its bright green core and the coma around it will appear wider than they are and will be “half the size of a full moon.”
The comet will be visible during the first half of February for a “vast majority of the northern hemisphere and in a northerly direction,” and will move so slowly that it will be difficult to see it even moving. By mid-month, the green comet will move farther south, giving people living near the equator a chance to see it.
Of course, the celestial body will only be visible in areas where the sky is clear, so in those places where there are clouds it will be difficult or even impossible to see it. If in doubt, it is advisable to consult the meteorological information; if you cannot see it due to weather conditions or light pollution in the area, you can always follow its trajectory through the Sky Map app.
How can I see the comet, and do I have to worry about the brightness?
Today, February 1, is the day when the comet will be at its closest point to the Earth. This will occur at about 7:11 pm in Spain (peninsular time).
As for the brightness of the comet, there is no need to worry. NASA has reported that the star can be observed with the naked eye without the use of other devices. When we have chosen a spot to see the comet, it is advisable to wait for half an hour for our eyes to adapt to the light.
To get the best possible view of the comet, you will first need to have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Keep in mind that the best time to see it will be at dusk. The comet will leave behind an unmistakable green halo, which will help you to identify it easily.