Monday, January 16, 2023

The ZTF comet is coming, don't miss the chance to see it!

Discovered on March 2 of last year from the Mount Palomar Observatory, the comet ZTF is these days entering the Solar System and, as it approaches the Earth, its apparent brightness increases.
On 12 January, the comet transited at perihelion 166 million km from the Sun. At this great distance its structure has remained intact and has not been affected by the gravitational attraction of our star. Now the ZTF is approaching Earth and on February 1 at 7 pm UTC+1 will reach the minimum distance from our planet, equal to 42 million km.
The latest forecasts indicate that the comet should become bright enough to be seen with the naked eye between 20 January and 10 February. Do not raise expectations too high: for the moment it is estimated that the comet will appear of fifth apparent magnitude.
It will therefore be visible only from dark skies without light pollution (so forget to see it from the cities) as a faint blurred white speck. To see it in the best way you could use a pair of binoculars, at least an 8x30 or a 10x50. 
For the inhabitants of the northern hemisphere, including us Italians, there is good news: starting tomorrow January 17 the comet will become circumpolar and will be visible throughout the night. The ZTF will always be visible near the polar region and in particular between 29 and 30 January will be at the minimum distance from the North Star. This will greatly facilitate its identification in heaven.
Don't miss this chance to see the ZTF, as it will be the only chance in your life to observe this particular comet. The ZTF originates from the Oort cloud and travels in a highly eccentric orbit with an orbital period of over 52 thousand years.
Credit: Jose Francisco Hernández.

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