Alberto Ferreras | Navianos de Valverde (Zamora) (EFE) 50,000 years later, that celestial body is about to complete its orbit again… and tomorrow, Saturday, is an ideal day to see it.
In reality, its passage to a distance in galactic terms close to Earth lasts a few weeks and it is between February 1 and 2 when it will be closest to our planet, but this Saturday is “D-day” for a group of enthusiasts. Zamoranos of the firmament who will meet to observe the christened green comet, a name it receives from its peculiar diffuse envelope and its tails.
The host of this stellar meeting organized in Navianos de Valverde (Zamora), Miguel Ángel Furones, clarifies to Efe the reason for bringing the date forward, since “when it is closer to Earth the moon will be almost full and will prevent optimal view of the comet.
An astronomy fan since he tried unsuccessfully as a child to see Halley’s Comet in its last approach, Furones trusts that the clouds will give a truce and this Saturday they will reveal that green comet with an almost eternal orbit that is actually called C/2022 E3 (ZTF).
For the moment, as a good astrophotographer, in the previous days he has managed to photograph it with his camera from the observatory that he has in his own house.
The sky, an advantage of emptied Spain
In this regard, living in a place like Navianos de Valverde, a paradigm of Empty Spain, is an advantage because there is hardly any population or industrial activity, which helps make the night skies darker and makes it easier to observe.
In theory, if the conditions, the time and the viewing point are optimal, the comet that passes every 50,000 years can be glimpsed without having to use a telescope for it.
«With very dark skies, when it is at the zenith, around four or five in the morning, perhaps the central zone and the coma can be distinguished with the naked eye, difficult but perhaps yes, but with simple binoculars it will to be visible”, assures this dilettante of astronomy.
the most spectacular
In any case, he clarifies that it will not be as clear a vision as the most spectacular comets he remembers: Neowise in 2020, Hale-Bopp in 1997, or Hyakutake a year earlier.
At that point, from the astronomical center of Tiedra (Valladolid), its activities manager, Elvira Díaz, asserts that the so-called green comet has no comparison with those others and confesses that in recent weeks she has had to lower people’s expectations who have called the center interested in him.
“A lot of expectation is being generated and we have to say the bad part,” says Elvira Díaz, who explains that some think they are going to see “a huge green comet with a tremendous tail” based on the photographs disseminated, but it is actually from a stack of 59 images taken over two hours with a reflex camera and a professional lens. “That taken to the human eye, imagine what you see, nothing,” she argues.
Through the eyepiece of the telescope
For this reason, although in this center with a planetarium and open-air observation area they will have a telescope pointing at the comet, the person in charge of visits believes that it may be more spectacular to see other planets of the solar system from the eyepiece or the passage of the international space station .
The astrophysicist Josep María Trigo-Rodríguez, from the Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC-IEEC), points out to Efe that the passage of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) seen from observatories around the world allows us to know “details of its place of formation , understand its real dimensions, the degree of youth depending on the activity it presents and also the composition of the gases it gives off ».
Although the nucleus of this comet is only a few kilometers in diameter, the sublimation of its ice by solar radiation forms its characteristic coma and tails.
two minutes at the speed of light
The comet passed its perihelion on the 12th, the closest point in its orbit to the sun, some 164 million kilometers away, and it will get even closer to Earth, until it is 42 million kilometers away next Thursday.
A distance that, in cosmic terms, takes just over two minutes to travel at the speed of light, but which, with our feet on the ground, means going around the Earth around its equator more than a thousand times. EFE