A comet discovered less than a year ago is set to start 2023 off by making some history. The cosmic discovery is believed to have traveled billions of miles from its suspected origins at the edge of the Milkway.
In just a few weeks people will be able to see the comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF). It was first viewed by astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in March 2022 as it orbited through Jupiter’s rotation. The C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a long-period comet that is believed to hail from the Oort Cloud — the most distant region of Earth’s solar system. The Oort Cloud is “like a big, thick-walled bubble made of icy pieces of space debris” that can get even bigger than mountains, according to NASA.
Experts believe the inner edge of the Oort Cloud to be between 2,000 and 5,000 astronomical units (AUs) from the sun — between 186 billion and 465 billion miles. This means the C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has traveled a long way to make a once-in-a-lifetime journey to be close to the third rock from the sun.
Most “long-period comets” are “only seen once in recorded history,” according to NASA. This is “because their orbital periods are so, well, long.” NASA added that there have been “countless” other “long-period comets [that] have never been seen by human eyes.” There are even some that “have orbits so long that the last time they passed through the inner solar system” mankind didn’t exist yet.
The C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has been seen with a “bright greenish coma” and a “short broad dust tail” with a “long faint ion tail.” It will be closest to the sun on January 12 and reach the closest point to Earth on February 1.
This once-in-a-lifetime celestial event is currently “sweeping across” the constellation Corona Borealis, according to astronomers. People should be able to view the C/2022 E3 (ZTF) with a pair of binoculars and their naked eyes.
By Sheena Robertson
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