An image taken by an Austrian comet hunter shows a gap in the tail of a stunning green comet that could have been caused by turbulent space weather.
Experienced astrophotographer Michael Jaeger captured this image of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on Tuesday (January 17) after driving 800 kilometers from Austria to Bavaria in Germany to get a clear view of the night sky. Yager shared the picture on Twitter. (will open in a new tab)as well as additional photos of the video of the comet.
“The journey was not in vain,” Yager told Space.com in an email. He added that when it comes to photographing comets, an astrophotographer can’t waste time, as these ice balls quickly change when they reach the warmer regions of the inner solar system.
Related: Amazing photos of gorgeous green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
Read more: How to see and photograph comets
This particular image shows what astronomers call a separation event, essentially a weakening of the comet’s characteristic tail, making the tail appear to be breaking off.
According to SpaceWeather.com (will open in a new tab), this disturbance in the tail is likely caused by turbulent space weather, namely the stronger than normal solar wind that was released during the recent coronal mass ejection (CME). CMEs are bursts of high-energy particles from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, that travel through the solar system, affecting the atmospheres of planets and other bodies.
“A piece of comet ZTF’s tail has been cut off and blown away by the solar wind,” writes SpaceWeather.com. “CMEs colliding with comets can cause magnetic reconnection in comet tails, sometimes tearing them off entirely.”
Read more: Green comet is a rare “herald from the far corners of the solar system”
The comet’s tail is made up of vaporized matter and dust emitted by the icy body as it heats up closer to the Sun. While the comet itself is usually no more than a few miles wide, the tail can stretch hundreds of thousands of miles across the inner solar system, providing an unusual celestial spectacle that makes astronomers and astrophotographers buzz.
spaceweather.com (will open in a new tab) He added that several CMEs swept past Comet ZTF this month as its visit to our region of the solar system coincides with a burst of activity on the surface of the Sun. According to the UK Met Office, there are currently eight numbered sunspots crossing the Earth-facing disk of the Sun. (will open in a new tab), so as the comet approaches us, more CMEs may occur. Sunspots are darker and colder regions visible on the surface of the Sun that have twisted and dense magnetic fields that cause solar flares and CMEs.
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California in March 2022, is approaching Earth for the first time in about 50,000 years. Experts say the comet will soon become visible to the naked eye and reach its closest distance from Earth on February 1, flying past our planet for about a quarter of the distance from the Sun to Earth.
Yager, who has photographed over 1,100 comets since taking up astrophotography four decades ago, is sure to capture even more awe-inspiring images, which you can find on his Twitter account. (will open in a new tab). However, he acknowledged that the weather at this time of year is not ideal for this rare celestial encounter.
“The weather in Central Europe is very bad and I have to travel a lot to see the comet,” Jaeger wrote.
If you want to get your own breathtaking photos of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), be sure to check out our guides to the best telescopes and best binoculars to help you get a closer look. And don’t miss our guides to the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography to get the best photos of comets you can.
Editor’s Note: If you have a good photo of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and would like to share it with Space.com readers, please send your photos, comments, name and location to spacephotos@. .
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