Your last chance to see the rare ‘green comet’ this Valentine’s week as you court a shining star

Goodbye Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF). After a journey of billions of kilometers from the distant Oort Cloud – a sphere of comets circling our solar system – the giant snowball has circled the Sun, shone in the nick of time and is now destined to return from whence it came. .

However, before that, it will make one last apparent pass near a bright star.

That’s great news for casual comet watchers, because this binocular object will, for the first time, be fairly easy to find in the night sky.

After dusk on Tuesday, February 14 and Wednesday, February 15, 2023, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will appear to be very close to Aldebaran.

Aldebaran is an easy star to find in the winter night sky. The thirteenth brightest star in the night sky, this brightest star in the constellation of Taurus is – if you squint – an obvious rust-red color.

Aldebaran is the “eye of the bull” and, appropriately enough, makes almost a target if you’re outside on Valentine’s Day after taking one last look at comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

Here are some of my own star maps to help you find comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) near Aldebaran – as well as other gems in the same region of the sky, including the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters:

Where to see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and Aldebaran on Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Where to see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and Aldebaran on Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Tips for seeing the ‘green comet’

Observing comets is not easy – and this one is not visible to the naked eye. So here’s what you need to do:

1. Get some binoculars

This comet cannot be seen with the naked eye – no matter what anyone says! You’ll need at least a medium-sized pair of binoculars (10×50, 10×42, 7×42, etc. are also good).

2. Find a sky map or use an app

Almost any stargazing app will have the comet marked, so use the augmented reality features to find the comet. Another good option is the Stellarium Web Online Star Map, while this star map from BBC sky at night magazine it’s useful.

3. Have realistic expectations

Are you looking for a faint, diffuse blob in the night sky and no a glowing green light with a glowing tail behind it. Images on social media are taken over many hours and processed with great care.

4. Look slightly to his side

By looking slightly to one side of the comet rather than directly at it, the sensitive part of the eye that detects brightness rather than detail will be stimulated. This “avoidance view” technique is like looking at all the fuzzy, faint objects – and it will also work brilliantly with the fabled Pleiades star cluster, which the comet is close to this week.

What is Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a long period comet – originally thought to be an asteroid – that was discovered on March 2, 2022 in the constellation of Aquila by astronomers using the 48-inch telescope at the Zwicky Transient Facility on Mt. Palomar near San Diego, California. It is a telescope often used to discover new asteroids and comets. The “E3” refers to being the third comet discovered in the fifth half of 2022.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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