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Comet C/2022 E3 flies past Earth – Austria

Comet C/2022 E3 flies past Earth – Austria


Comet C/2022 E3 shows interesting phenomena in rare cloud windows.
© APA / ASTRONOMIC CENTER MARTINSBERG / MICHAEL JÄGER

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to Earth on February 1st. It is currently showing interesting phenomena in rare cloud windows.

Comet C / 2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered at the beginning of March 2022 at the Zwicky Transit Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California (USA). “It can currently be seen with the naked eye in a very dark country sky, but only faintly,” Michael Jäger, president of the association “Astronomical Center Martinsburg” in Waldviertel (Lower Austria) explained to APA. The amateur astronomer has been working extensively on comets for decades.

Comet C/2022 E3 exhibits interesting phenomena

Jäger’s current images of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) document that phase from the last few days when Earth moved through the comet’s orbit: “You can see the comet with two dust tails going in opposite directions,” the expert told APA. This can only be seen for a few days, after which there is only a tail again.


Visibility in Vienna until 20 February
©APA

In addition, Jäger has documented so-called “tail tears” in the comet’s ion tail in recent weeks. Unlike the dust tail, this one cannot usually be seen without tools. These demolitions could be caused, on the one hand, by fluctuations in the activity of the comet, and on the other hand, by the solar wind.

The tail of the comet ion is visible through the charged particles

According to Geiger, the fluctuations are caused by the inhomogeneous distribution of the comet’s frozen gases. If the sun illuminates an area with more of this substance, a stronger ion tail forms, if this area shifts to the shadow side, the ion tail also becomes weaker. The arrival of charged particles in the solar wind from solar flares or coronal mass ejections can either increase activity and thus the ion tail or cause existing ion tails to rotate and rupture. “In the past few days, there were phases when the comet was active and particularly interesting for photography, with fantastic structures, and then there were times when the ion tail was not visible at all,” says Jäger.

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In the next few days, if the weather is good, it will still be possible for ordinary people to observe C/2022 E3 (ZTF), and then the waxing moon will become more and more of a nuisance. In the evening, the tailed star is still somewhat low to the north, but appears high in the north-northeast sky from about midnight. When searching, it is helpful to use the “Little Dipper” constellation with the Pole Star as a guide.