India's Chandra Telescope captures Comet ZTF last seen by Neanderthals | Tech News

India's Chandra Telescope captures Comet ZTF last seen by Neanderthals

India’s highest telescope has captured a stunning image of the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) which was last seen around 50000 years ago.

| Updated on: Jan 11 2023, 11:00 IST
Are near-Earth objects DANGEROUS? Know what NASA says about scary comets, asteroids
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
1/5 Earth has objects near it, which sometimes get attracted towards the planet because of its gravitational pull. Of course, not every near-Earth object manages to reach the surface of the planet. The object needs to be large enough to survive its fiery journey through the atmosphere of the Earth. (Pixabay)
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2/5 What is a near-Earth object? Asteroids or comets that can pass within 30 million miles or 50 million kilometers of Earth's orbit are known as near-Earth objects or NEO. According to NASA, "A near-Earth object (NEO) is an asteroid or comet whose orbit brings it within a zone approximately 121 million miles (195 million kilometers) from the Sun, meaning that it can pass within about 30 million miles (50 million kilometers) of Earth’s orbit." (Pixabay)
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
3/5 NASA further informed that the vast majority of NEOs that enter Earth’s atmosphere disintegrate before reaching the surface (and more than 100 tons of dust particles disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere daily). Those NEOs that are larger than around 98 to 164 feet (30 to 50 meters) in size could cause widespread damage in and around their impact sites. Apart from NEOs, there is another category that NASA uses. These are the potentially hazardous objects (PHO). These are near-Earth objects whose orbit brings them within 4.7 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth’s orbit, or is greater than 500 feet (140 meters) in size. (Pixabay)
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
4/5 The highest risk of impact for a known asteroid is a 1 in 714 chance of impact by an asteroid designated 2009 FD in 2185. This means that the possibility that it could impact then is less than 0.2 percent. NASA said, "One asteroid that NASA is studying up close, called Bennu, has a 1/2700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2195. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will complete a 2-year investigation of Bennu before plucking a sample of asteroid material off its surface and delivering it back to Earth." (Pixabay)
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
5/5 How can we prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth? Currently, an asteroid impact is the only natural disaster that NASA might be able to prevent. There are a few methods that NASA is studying to deflect an asteroid on a course to impact Earth. One of these techniques is called a gravity tractor—it involves a spacecraft that would rendezvous with an asteroid (but not land on its surface) and maintain its relative, optimal position to use the mutual gravity attraction between the satellite and the asteroid to slowly alter the course of the asteroid. (Pixabay)
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
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A comet called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) captured by the HCT is expected to come near Earth in February. (IIA/Himalayan Chandra Telescope)

India's Himalayan Chandra Telescope has added a feather in its cap by capturing a stunning image of the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) which is expected to come close to Earth next month. Comets are of interest to scientists because they are remnants of the early Solar System, and can tell us about the conditions and composition of the early Solar System. When a comet approaches the Sun, the heat causes the ices in the comet to turn into a gas, which surrounds the nucleus of the comet in a bright coma. The gas and dust in the coma form a bright tail that always points away from the Sun.

Although comets often make close flybys, the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is particularly special as it has a period of around 50,000 years. That means the last time it flew past Earth closely; it was witnessed by Neanderthals during the Upper Paleolithic period on Earth nearly 50000 years ago. The comet ZTF was captured by India's Himalayan Chandra Telescope. Sharing the image on Twitter, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics tweeted,” This stunning 'true colour' image of the comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was taken from the HCT from our Indian Astronomical Observatory in #Hanle Ladakh. The telescope was tracking the fast moving comet, and so the background stars appear to move in a trail.”

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The image was captured by astronomers Margarita Safonova, Mulchand Kurre & Bharat Chandra.

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The Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) is an astronomical observatory located in Himachal Pradesh which is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA). The telescope is located at the Hanle Observatory at an altitude of 14,764 feet above sea level.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) details

Comet C/2022E3 (ZTF) is a long-period comet that originated in the Oort cloud. It was discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility in 2022 in early March, NASA revealed. Astronomers say that it will pass closest to the Sun tomorrow, January 12 and will come within roughly 26 million miles of Earth on February 1.

Although comets are usually unlikely to be visible to the naked eye, the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could be visible to people around the world watching with naked eyes for a few days around the period of its close approach.

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First Published Date: 11 Jan, 10:39 IST

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