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Green comet flies over Bay Area

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A rare green comet passes through our solar system for the first time in 50,000 years, over the weekend bay area Stargazers are most likely to spot it in the night sky.

The comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), was first discovered Named after the Twicky Transient Facility, where it was identified in orbit of Jupiter by astronomers Frank Massi and Bryce Bolin at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County last March. The comet made its closest approach to the Sun on her January 12th, and now she is on its closest approach to Earth on February 2nd, about 27 million miles away.

Paul Lynam, an astronomer at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, told SFGATE that it’s unlikely anyone in the Bay Area will be able to see the comet with the naked eye because of light pollution. Binoculars that offer a wider field of view — come in handy.

Lynam said he sighted the comet from the observatory around 9pm Wednesday night and advises people to scan the northeastern night sky between the Big Dipper and the smaller Big Dipper for it.

“What I noticed with my cheap binoculars was an extended diffuse object that was wider than the star and slightly brighter,” he said. It looked like

Don’t give up if you can’t see it right away.

“Comets are already known to transform very rapidly from night to night,” Lynam said. “If you can see it, you might notice that it is moving relative to a background star. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see the morphology, the shape and structure of the tail. ”

Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at the Chabot Space Science Center in Auckland, said that comets may appear to have two tails, one made of gas and the other made of particles. said. He said it’s still possible that an observer “in a very dark sky, far from city lights” will be able to see it without visual aids from now until the first few days of February. After that, the comet will remain in the night sky, becoming less and less visible from the United States as it transits the Southern Hemisphere.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the sky of Molfetta, Italy, before sunrise around 6:00 am on January 24, 2023. Neanderthals last passed through Earth 50,000 years ago, when Neanderthals still lived in our latitudes. This comet he was discovered in early March 2022 and was initially thought to be an asteroid.

Despite its name, observers shouldn’t expect the green comet to zoom across the sky in vivid shamrock-colored hues.

Prosper, who also manages the NASA Night Sky Network, said: “It seems to report a distinct green color when viewed in telescopes 6 inches or larger in diameter, but everyone’s eye is different. Photographs show green easily.”

Unfortunately, there are several factors that can affect the comet’s visibility. Prosper told his SFGATE that the moon is expected to get brighter over the next week. Dalton Behringer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there could be scattered stratus clouds along with rain on Saturday and Sunday night.

“If people are really going to see it, they can go to higher terrain and go above the cloud layer,” Behringer said.

That said, Thursday and Friday nights may be your best bet. You may have better luck by heading to the Chabot Space and Science Center, which is scheduled for free telescope viewing on the 4th. The San Francisco amateur astronomer will host his party for the public this Saturday at his grounds in his parade at his presidio, where he stars from 6pm until 10pm.

Lynam and McKeegan also suggested keeping an eye on Jupiter, which appears as one of the brightest lights in the western sky. With binoculars, you can even see her four moons as they orbit the planet. Mars will also become visible, emitting a bright orange or red glow.

Regardless of what you find among the stars, the comet’s trajectory is unpredictable and can take thousands of years to return, so it’s worth investigating.

“We can’t say for sure what the comet’s trajectory will be. Once it comes, it could be thrown out of the solar system entirely,” Lynam said. “It may take thousands of years, and it may never come back.”

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