Science

Look at the comet closest to the sun with the naked eye on Thursday (January 12)

On Thursday (January 12), a comet that has not visited Earth or the inner solar system since the last ice age will reach its closest point to the Sun, also known as its perihelion.

The comet, designated C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will approach the Sun at a distance of about 100 million miles (160 million kilometers). After perihelion, the comet will then move towards Earth, making its closest approach to our planet, its perigee, on February 2, when it will fly past us at a distance of 26 million miles (42 million kilometers).

Although the comet will not be visible to the naked eye during its close approach to the Sun, it will be visible with binoculars. If C/2022 E3 (ZTF) continues to glow as it does now, it will eventually be visible in the night sky with the naked eye. Whether or not you can see it for yourself, The Virtual Telescope Project will be hosting a free livestream of the comet starting at 11:00 pm EDT on January 1st. 12 (04:00 GMT January 13). You can watch the live broadcast on the project website. (will open in a new tab) or on his YouTube channel (will open in a new tab).

Related: Watch comet closest in 50,000 years online next week

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL) (will open in a new tab) gives this comet a period of 50,000 years. This means that the last time the C/2022 E3 (ZTF) orbit brought it this close to Earth, our planet was in the midst of the last ice age or “Ice Age” and early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals were still sharing the planet.

According to the sky (will open in a new tab) from New York C/2022 E3 (ZTF) at perihelion will be visible in the morning sky, rising at 23:18 EST (0418 GMT) and reaching an altitude of 64° above the eastern horizon. The comet will disappear from view at dawn around 6:07 am EST (1107 GMT).

C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will eventually peak on February 1st. 2 as it approaches Earth and is visible in the constellation Camelopardalis.

The comet was first identified in March 2022 by the wide field camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility and was initially thought to be an asteroid. The rapid increase in brightness of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) as it moved from Jupiter’s inner orbit indicated its true cometary nature.

Comet brightness is hard to predict, but even if C/2022 E3 (ZTF) doesn’t get bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, it can still be observed throughout January and early February with binoculars and small telescopes.

According to NASA (will open in a new tab) observers in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to find C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the morning sky as it moves northwest during January. The comet will become visible to skywatchers in the Southern Hemisphere in early February 2023.

The new moon phase (when the moon is not completely lit) in January. 21 should provide the perfect dark skies needed to detect C/2022 E3 (ZTF) weather permitting.

If you want to take a look at C/2022 E3 ZTF and don’t have the right equipment, be sure to check out our guides to finding the best binoculars and the best telescopes for spotting a comet or anything else in the sky. To get the best images of comets, we have recommendations for the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.

Editor’s Note: If you are photographing 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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