Comet approaches Earth and can be seen with the naked eye in early 2023

According to the Minor Planet Center, an organization run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) responsible for designating smaller bodies in the solar system, a comet is approaching Earth and will be visible to the naked eye in early 2023.

Through a statement, the MPC revealed the discovery of an apparently asteroidal object (magnitude ~17) identified in images captured on March 2 through the Palomar Observatory’s Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) optical survey system in San Diego, in the US state of California.

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The entire sky graph above shows the comet’s path, and its current position is marked in yellow. Image: Gideon van Buitenen

Soon after the detection, the cometary appearance was confirmed by CCD astrometrists (as professionals in the field are called specialists in the resource known as “Charge-coupled device”, or, “Device of coupled charges”) in other places, as in the Chile. The new comet was then designated C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

According to preliminary estimates, the comet will pass within 0.28 astronomical units (AU) of Earth in early February 2023, when the object may be close to full visual magnitude 6. The data collected also suggests that the comet passed within about 1 .18 AU from Saturn in May 2020 and about 3.07 AU from Jupiter in 2021 April.

The graph below, generated by the Orbitas software, shows the predicted magnitude (in red) versus its elongation from the Sun. As is always the case with comets, the future magnitudes reported here are indicative only.

Credit: Signs of the Times – Sott.net

According to Dutch amateur astronomer Gideon van Buitenen, who has made an interactive orbit graph available on his website, showing the comet’s path through the solar system, its perihelion – closest approach to the Sun – will be on January 13, 2023, with approach closer to the Earth on February 2. He believes the object could be brighter than the predicted magnitude 6.

According to the technical director of the Brazilian Meteor Observation Network (BRAMON), Marcelo Zurita, columnist for The Utopian, one of the most favorable aspects for observing this comet is that when it is passing closer to Earth, in January of next year, it will be in the opposite position of the Sun.

“So we’ll be able to observe him practically all night. It will pass behind the Earth in relation to the Sun, and this favors observation because we can take a dark night and make a sequence of images for a long exposure photo, and these conditions are excellent for that”, said Zurita, who is also president of the Paraiba Association of Astronomy. “Now, it’s just a case of hoping he gains more shine than expected and then, without a doubt, we’ll witness a real show”.

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