NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 21 January 2023: Comet ZTF in all its glory! | Tech News

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 21 January 2023: Comet ZTF in all its glory!

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day for 21 January, 2023 is none other than Comet ZTF, which is heading for a rendezvous with Earth in February.

| Updated on: Jan 21 2023, 18:00 IST
Where do comets come from?
Comet ZTF
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)
Comet ZTF
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)
Comet ZTF
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)
Comet ZTF
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)
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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)
Comet ZTF
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NASA says by January 19, Comet ZTF could just be seen with the naked eye. (Image Credit & Copyright: Óscar Martín Mesonero)

The rare green comet, which is heading for a rendezvous with Earth soon, is all over the news! This rare comet C2022 E3 ZTF was at perihelion, its closest to the Sun, on January 12. What makes it an interesting celestial object is that it makes a once-in-50000-year appearance. But don't worry, Perigee, which is the comet's closest approach to our Earth, will be on February 1. It is a golden opportunity to watch it. Today, it has been shared by NASA as its Astronomy Picture of the Day.

“Comet C/2022E3 (ZTF) is no longer too dim to require a telescope for viewing. By January 19, it could just be seen with the naked eye in this rural sky with little light pollution from a location about 20 kilometers from Salamanca, Spain,” NASA explained about the image of Comet ZTF. Still, NASA says that telescopic images are needed to show any hint of the comet's pretty green coma, stubby whitish dust tail, and long ion tail.

The shared image shows its faint ion tail which has been buffeted by recent solar activity. “This visitor from the distant Oort cloud rounded the Sun on January 12. and is now sweeping through stars near the northern boundary of the constellation Bootes. Outward bound but still growing brighter, Comet ZTF makes its closest approach on February 2, coming to within about 2.4 light-minutes of our fair planet,” NASA informed.

How to watch Comet ZTF

At the closest point towards the Earth, the comet will still be more than 100 times the moon's distance! Late January and early February is the best time to witness this icy visitor from the outer solar system, that too with naked eyes. says that on January 30, the comet will be in the general vicinity of Polaris – the North Star.

Did you know?

With the help of a 48-inch (1.2-meter) Samuel Oschin robotic telescope, astronomers discovered Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF on March 2, 2022. The telescope is part of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), located at Mt. Palomar in southern California. Also, it was the 3rd celestial object found in the fifth month (A, B, C, D, E) of the year. And that's how it got its name comet 2022 E3 (ZTF).

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First Published Date: 21 Jan, 17:51 IST