NASA Spotlight: Brightness of the “Green Comet” is the astronomical photo of the day

NASA Spotlight: Brightness of the "Green Comet" is the astronomical photo of the day

Comet C/2022 E3 (or just “ZTF”, if you prefer) appears in all its beauty in the photo featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website this Friday (27). It is already visible to observers in the northern hemisphere and, as it gets brighter, it has been yielding incredible photos.

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The photo in question was taken on Monday (23), and shows the long tail of dust that accompanies the comet. You’ll notice that it appears slightly curved and appears to move away from the Sun as the comet travels along its elliptical orbit.

The most intriguing thing is that this tail is not alone, as comets normally have a tail of dust and a tail of gas, that is, only two of them. So why does comet ZTF appear to have a third tail, facing to the left?

Dubbed the “anti-tail”, this structure is actually an optical illusion from our observational perspective caused by Earth moving through the comet’s orbital plane. Therefore, dust tail components appear on both sides.

Its ion tail appears to be moving away from the coma (the greenish glowing region) in a right diagonal direction due to solar activity.

Meet Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF

Comet C/2022 E3 was discovered in March last year by astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin. Using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) equipment at the Palomar Observatory in the United States, they found an object that they initially thought was an asteroid.

New observations showed that the object in question had a very condensed coma, indicating that it was a comet. After gathering enough data to investigate its orbit, astronomers discovered that it has an orbital period of nearly 50,000 years, which suggests that the last time it was around, the ZTF was seen by our ancestors.

While traveling through space, the “Green Comet” should be visible in the southern hemisphere in early February – and, perhaps, this will be his last visit. Orbital elements suggest that after passing the Sun, it will travel back into deep space and never return.

Source: APOD