A green comet will cross the night sky on the last nights of January and the first nights of February. Discovered in March 2022, the comet scientifically named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a long-range traveler, whose elongated orbit describes an ellipse that extends to the Oort cloud, the region that marks the limits of the Solar System, where it wandered in total darkness for thousands of years, before gravitational pull propelled its journey back to the worlds closest to the Sun.
The path of comets to the inner Solar System involves leaving the icy darkness of the confines of our cosmic neighborhood and increasing their temperature as they approach the Sun. The heat then sublimates the surface ice and forms a cloud that envelops the nucleus (coma). and above all, a characteristic tail that grows in the opposite direction to the Sun and can extend for tens of millions of kilometers.
The comma and the distinctive tail of comets have been key to their identification since ancient civilizations, which related their dramatic appearance in the celestial vault with dire omens that warned of the arrival of wars, droughts or famines. However, the long stride of the ZTF comet dates back to a stage before even the expansion of Homo sapiens on Earth: about 50,000 years ago, when the green comet loomed in the skies of the hot, rocky worlds of the inner planets of the Solar system for the last time, Neanderthals were the dominant human species in Europe. Hence, the passage of C/2022 E3 is an unrepeatable event on a human scale.
When will the ZTF comet be seen in Colombia?
On January 12, C/2022 E3 ZTF reached the closest point in its orbit to the Sun (perihelion). Since then, the distance between the comet and Earth has been reduced day by day until it reached its closest approach (perigee) on February 1, when the two are only 42 million kilometers apart, just over a hundred times the Earth average. and the Moon (and a quarter of the distance that separates the Sun from our planet).
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The best time to see the green comet is from the weekend of January 28 and 29 until the night of February 2, when it will begin to move away definitively towards the confines of the Solar System.
How to see the ZTF comet in Colombia and at what time?
On February 1, comet C/2022 C3 will be visible to the naked eye in rural areas far from large cities and therefore free of light pollution. To find it in the celestial vault, just look to the north and locate the Pole Star, the brightest of the Little Dipper.
Comet ZTF is visible all night from the northern hemisphere and during the last days of January it will appear to revolve around Polaris in an east-west direction. On the night of its closest approach, on February 1, the comet will appear just above the North Star between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., an ideal time to look at it with binoculars or a telescope and capture its most recent passage through the planet in greater detail. terrestrial night sky.
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