Saturday 28 January 2023

Comet, green, can be seen

Trying for faint astronobjects in Ireland-of-the-drizzles is a big ask but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Green-tailed Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) hasn't gotten a common name yet - because the last time it was visible, 50,000 years ago, human astronomers were banging two rocks together. I've done some work to increase the likelihood that you'll catch this one. Base picture from TheSkyLive. Annotated by moi to show the ?familiar? Big and Little Dipper in the NE sky:

We tried to see this object on Thursday 26Jan night after a clear and sunny late afternoon, but by 19:00 the stars were winking out one by one as wispy clouds obscured the sky. By 21:00 we couldn't even see the moon: bracketted by Mars above and Jupiter below. Last night, Fri 27Jan23, I was out again several times, knowing exactly where to look. βUmi and  γUma, the two bright adjacent stars of Ursa Minor were visible but, of C/2022 E3: zonders, zilch, zero. I have now discovered that, kneeling down and craning up, I can see Ursa Minor out of the tiny landing window at the back of our house. So I don't have to stumble in the dark up the steps to the garden on spec. Bring back Comet Hale-Bopp, I say, C/1995 O1 was defo visible in the Spring of 1997 as we waited for the builders to move out of our home, so we could move in.

Polaris, the Pole Star, is formally called αUmi [the brightest star in Ursa Minor]. wrt the fixed stars, the Comet is moving "up" the night sky at about 3° a day and will be closest to Earth [and most visible?] on St Bridget's Day = Lá Fhéile Bríde 1st February. But don't wait for the brightest night, go for a possible = clear-sky night between now and mid-Feb. Binocks, even crappy ones, will help, but a crystal clear sky will help better. And city folks should endeavour to leave the street-lights behind and find somewhere dark. Good luck.

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