Carlos Manuel Mena Pacheco, a systems engineer and astronomer graduated from UNAM, who promotes astronomical tourism in the port of Río Lagartos, shared how he observed the passage of the green comet in eastern Yucatán.
He explained that during the first week of February comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) began to appear in the sky of the Southern Hemisphere and, according to forecasts of its brightness, it may be visible and seen with the naked eye from February 1 to 5.
He shared that the comet was discovered in March last year by an automatic program of the Palomar observatory and it is known that it has a period of about 47 thousand years and that its nucleus is not too big.
He revealed that the comet will reach its perihelion on January 12 and on February 1 it reached its shortest distance from the Earth, which was about 110 times the Earth-Moon distance and that although the comet has been observed for months in the Northern hemisphere, from the South we will only be able to see it after February 4 when it crosses the horizon.
He said that as of February 5 it should be visible, since it is close to the horizon, after sunset looking north, and that as the days go by the comet will be rising. On February 10 and 11 it will be visually very close to the planet Mars, but as it goes up in the sky it will lose brightness, so it may be difficult to locate.
He mentioned that from then on and until the month of March the celestial body will continue to rise and be located in the constellation of Taurus, to later pass through the constellation of Orion, although it is expected that its brightness will already be too low and will only be within reach of small telescopes and binoculars.
These are the forecasts, but it is always important to remember that these stars are very capricious objects and that it is quite complicated to predict its exact brightness, so the only thing left to do is to wait for those days and see if we can locate it with the naked eye or if it will only be visible with some optical aid instrument.
He recommended that in order to locate it, it will be ideal to have the northern horizon completely clear, to have a dark sky as far as possible and away from the light pollution of the city.
This February 4, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will pass through its perihelion, that is, it will be at the closest point of its orbit to the Sun; moment in which it is expected to have its peak of activity, although it will not be its brightest moment and it is expected to reach its maximum level of activity during the perihelion, because it still has several days to go before we see it with its maximum brightness, this because the comet will be only 0.28 astronomical units away from the Earth.
Therefore, it is expected that it is at this time that we will be able to see the comet with the naked eye from dark skies. He also added that the comet is already visible with binoculars and telescopes, so if people want to try to observe it, they should do so one to two hours before sunrise. It is worth noting that the comet is currently located between the constellations of Hercules and Bootes, and that its appearance is that of a small greenish and blurry spot.
Astronomy lovers are invited to be attentive to the different events that will take place in the firmament such as the blue moon on August 30, the total solar eclipse on October 23 and several meteor showers: April 23, August 13, October 9, October 22, November 18 and December 14.