Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

In the photo, the highlight is the beauty of the comet's tails. If you look closely, you'll notice that there are four of them — three, with bluish tones, are formed by ions and extend to the upper right corner of the image.

It is possible that the ion tails were affected by the solar wind on the ions ejected by the comet's nucleus. The other one, with a light color, appears in the upper left corner of the photo, being much shorter than the others. Finally, the greenish glow belongs to the comet's coma, composed of carbon dioxide gas.

Comet ZTF should make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12, and will be close to our planet in early February. This is not the first visit of this object to our neighborhood: it comes from the Oort Cloud , the most distant region of the Solar System, and it was here for the last time 50 thousand years ago.

What is a comet?

Known as "dirty ice balls", comets are formed from dust and rock left over from the formation of the Solar System . They are composed of a frozen core that is surrounded by the coma, the cloud of gas and dust formed as the ice in the core is heated by the Sun.

As the comet travels and loses gas and dust from its nucleus, sunlight and particles from the Sun "push" these materials, forming long tails. They are of two types: one is light in color and is formed by dust, while the other is bluish and contains ions, electrically charged gas molecules.

To date, astronomers have identified more than 3,700 comets. However, there are probably billions of them traveling around the Sun in distant regions such as the Kuiper Belt and, as we mentioned, the Oort Cloud.

Source: APOD

 Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) photographed last week (Image: Reproduction/Jose Francisco Hernández)(Image: Reproduction/Jose Francisco Hernández)


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