An irregular comet will pass 42 million kilometers away from Earth, a “minimum” amount in the universe.
It will do so after 50,000 years in an event that we can only see once in a lifetime.
The sighting of some celestial bodies from Earth may be unique. In the specific case of comet C/2022 E3 , it will be even more special because we will be able to observe it easily for the first time in 50,000 years.
This rock, also named ZTF after the Zwicky Transient Facility from where it was observed, was first found crossing near Jupiter in 2022, some 640 million kilometers from the Sun.
Thanks to this, scientists have been able to estimate that the last time the comet passed by the Earth was during the Upper Paleolithic, when Neanderthals still roamed the world.
Now, thousands of years later, in just a few days it will be 42.5 million kilometers from our planet, so it will be a precise stage to learn more about it. But first: what do we need to know about it?
What you should know about C/2022 E3
What is a comet?
The first thing we must define is, of course, what a comet is .
These smaller stars are made up of dust, rocks and ice particles and orbit the Sun in elliptical orbits of great eccentricity (great distances), which means that their approach is thousands of years each way.
They spend long periods in cold regions of the solar system, but when they get close to the Sun, they heat up and cause the phenomenon of sublimation, causing their ice to go from solid to gaseous and revealing the famous “tails” with which it is known and It represents.
Why is it called C/2022 E3?
The comet is so named for the following reasons.
The letter C means that the comet is non-periodic (it will only pass through the Solar System once or it may take more than 200 years to orbit the Sun);
2022 E3 means that the comet was detected in early March 2022 (which correlates to the letter E according to the International Astronomical Union-approved comet naming system ) and was the third such object to be discovered in the same period.
ZTF stands for the Zwicky Transitional Facility telescopes, from where the discovery was made.
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When will be the best time to see C/2022 E3 on Earth?
The comet is now heading toward the inner Solar System, gradually growing brighter.
On January 12, 2023, it reached perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, at a distance of 1.11 astronomical unit (AU).
On February 1, 2023, it will pass Earth at a distance of 0.28 AU as it flies through the constellation Camelopardalis. This is the best time to view the comet , as it will be at its brightest. The expected magnitude in different sources varies from 5.1 to 7.35.
What will we need to be able to see the passage of comet C/2022 E3 in Peru?
It is estimated that, by then, the comet can be observed with binoculars or, according to some forecasts, even with the naked eye.
It will also depend on the light pollution in your area and if we have clear or cloudy skies.
From Lima, Peru, it can be seen on February 2 from 7 p.m. looking towards the northern horizon.
“Cities located in the northern part of our territory will be able to observe the comet a little higher on the horizon compared to places located in the southern part. Always remembering that we must move away from the light pollution of large cities and seek a free northern horizon of elevated objects”, says Dr. Nobar Baella, scientific researcher at the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP).
On February 5 in the early hours of the night and looking towards the northern horizon, the comet will be next to the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, the famous “Capella”, which will be favorable for the location of comet C /2022 E3.