Your last chance to see the rare ‘green comet’ this Valentine’s week as it woos a bright star

Goodbye, Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF). After traveling billions of miles from the distant Oort Cloud – a sphere of comets around our solar system – the giant snowball has looped around the Sun, illuminated at the right time and is now destined back to where she came from.

However, before it does, it will make one last apparent pass near a bright star.

This is great news for casual comet watchers as this binocular object will, for once, be rather easy to find in the night sky.

After dark on Tuesday February 14 and Wednesday February 15, 2023, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will appear very close to Aldebaran.

Aldebaran is an easy-to-find star in the winter night sky. The thirteenth brightest star in the night sky, this brightest star in the constellation Taurus is, if you squint, an obvious rusty red color.

Aldebaran is ‘bull’s eye’ and rightly almost a bull’s eye if you’re out on Valentine’s Day after one last nostalgic look at comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

Here are some of my own star maps to help you find comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) near Aldebaran, as well as the other gems in the same region of the sky, including the Hyades star clusters and the Pleiades:

Where to see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and Aldebaran on Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Where to see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and Aldebaran on Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Top Tips for Seeing the “Green Comet”

Observing comets is not easy, and this one is not visible to the naked eye. So here’s what you need to do:

1. Get binoculars

This comet cannot be seen with the naked eye, no matter what! You will need at least a pair of medium sized binoculars (10×50, 10×42, 7×42 etc. are also fine).

2. Find a sky map or use an app

Almost all stargazing apps will have the comet marked on it, so use the augmented reality features to find the comet. Another good choice is the Stellarium Web Online star map while this star map from the bbc night sky magazine is convenient.

3. Have realistic expectations

Looking for a faint blur in the night sky and not a bright green light with a hissing bright tail behind it. Images on social media are taken over many hours and processed with great care.

4. Look slightly to the side

By looking slightly to one side of the comet, instead of directly at it, the sensitive part of your eye that detects brightness instead of detail will be stimulated. This technique of ‘averted vision’ involves looking at all faint blurry objects – and it will also work wonderfully with the fabulous Pleiades star cluster, whose comet is near this week.

What is Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a long-period comet, originally thought to be an asteroid, which was discovered on March 2, 2022 in the constellation of Aquila by astronomers using the 48-inch telescope of the transitional installation of Zwicky at Mount Palomar near San Diego, California. It is a telescope that is often used to discover new asteroids and comets. The “E3” refers to the third comet discovered during the fifth half of 2022.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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