Ancient green comet shows a BIZARRE tail; Know what caused this phenomenon | Tech News

Ancient green comet shows a BIZARRE tail; Know what caused this phenomenon

The green comet, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), has begun showing a strange phenomenon known as the anti-tail. Know what it is.

| Updated on: Jan 26 2023, 18:42 IST
Where do comets come from?
1/6 Most comets come from the Kuiper belt, a region beyond the orbit of Neptune comets from this neighborhood usually take 200 years or less to make one orbit around the sun. These are called short-period comets. (NASA)
2/6 Comets also come from their other hangout Oort cloud, a far-far-distant cloud, sending some flying into the inner solar system. (Pixabay)
3/6 When they are at home in the Oort cloud or Kuiper belt comets are just dull, dark chunks of ice, dust, and rock. In this state, they may not be much different from asteroids. (NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery)
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4/6 Sometimes the gravitational pull of a planet can disturb comets in the Kuiper Belt and fly one headlong toward the sun. Notably, Jupiter's strong gravity can turn a long-period comet into a short-period one. (NASA)
5/6 The Sun's gravitational pull takes over, shaping the comet's path into an elliptical orbit. The comet travels faster and faster as it nears the sun swings and goes around close to the backside, then heads back to more or less where it came from. (Pixabay)
image caption
6/6 What makes comets look fuzzy and have tails? As comets get closer to the sun and begin to warm up, some of their materials start to boil off. This material forms a cloud around the nucleus. The cloud is called the coma and may stretch over hundreds of thousands of miles across. (NASA)
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Know the secret behind the anti-tail of the green comet. (Representative Photo) (@IIABengaluru / Twitter)

In the last few days, the ancient green comet, Comet C.2022 E3 (ZTF), which will soon reach its closest point to the Earth and that too after 50,000 years, has been showing some peculiar development. It all began on January 12 when the comet reached its perihelion (the point in its orbit which is closest to the Sun). As it moved away from the Sun, it was first struck by fast-moving solar winds which resulted in a brief period where the comet's tail appeared to be disconnected from the comet. And now, another strange phenomenon has hit the comet where it has developed an ‘anti-tail'.

The tail of a comet is the bright glow behind it which moves in a straight line. It is usually made up of the dust particles being removed from the comet ZTF due to the solar winds or the escaping gasses within it. Due to the fast speed of the comet and increased temperature from the Sun, these particles instantly heat up and begin glowing. Generally, the tail of a comet points away from the Sun because that is the direction where the heat is moving towards.

But an anti-tail is when the tail of a comet faces towards the Sun! reported on this event and stated, “Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3) sprung a tail in the opposite direction--an anti-tail. It's the narrow spike pointing out of the comet's head”. So, how exactly did it happen?

Green comet displays a mysterious anti-tail

The mystery has been confusing astronomers. But after analyzing it, they have found the answer. It turns out that the anti-tail of Comet ZTF is actually an optical illusion. This type of optical illusion occurs when the Earth passes through a comet's orbital plane.

So, if you are an amateur astronomer and you come across this bizarre phenomena while looking at the comet, do not be alarmed. Astronomers believe that the comet will continue to look unusual for a few more days till the Earth moves away from its orbital plane.

And if you've missed out on seeing this comet so far, then don't worry. On February 1, it will come closest to the Earth. On that night, you can actually see it even with your unaided eyes. Just make sure you are in an area with low light pollution.

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First Published Date: 26 Jan, 18:41 IST