Comet Tracker: Where And When To See The ‘Green Comet’ Whizz Past Red Mars This Weekend
If you’re keen to see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) one more time then this weekend brings a treat when the green guest from the outer solar system appears to pay a visit to the red planet.
Mars has been gradually dimming since its super-bright opposition in early December 2022, but it will still be plenty bright enough to easily find in the night sky on Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11, 2023 as comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) appears to whizz past.
The comet is right on the cusp of naked-eye visibility, so you’re either going to need very dark skies and excellent vision or binoculars/a small telescope to see it.
Here are some sky-charts to help you see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and Mars as well as some of the other delights of the night sky nearby—the sparkling open star clusters called the Hyades and the Pleiades as well as the bright reddish star Aldebaran:
Where to see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) close to Mars
If it’s still shining brightly as it departs the inner solar system then comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be visible apparently very close to the red planet on Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11, 2023. Put a pair of 10×50 (or similar) binoculars up to Mars and go slightly to the left and you should see it. If you’re lucky—and your sky is dark enough—you may even see it with your naked eyes.
Where to see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) close to Mars on Friday, February 10, 2023
Where to see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) close to Mars on Saturday, February 11, 2023
Comet-gazing requires patience and luck!
All comets require patience and perseverance. If you want instant gratification—a quick five-second sight of a mighty fireball lighting-up the night sky—then comet-spotting is not for you. Here’s why:
- Although technically a naked eye object, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is right on the cusp of easy visibility—you’re going to need to scan around the sky with binoculars.
- Light pollution makes a big difference to how easy it is to find a comet, so unless you’re in a dark sky area you have this problem, too.
- If could fizzle out at any time and go from faint to bright and back to faint in a matter of hours.
The discovery of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
This long-period comet—originally thought to be an asteroid—was discovered on March 2, 2022 in the constellation of Aquila by astronomers using the 48-inch telescope at the Zwicky Transient Facility at Mt. Palomar near San Diego, California. It’s a telescope that’s often used to discover new asteroids and comets. The “E3” refers to it being the third comet discovered in the fifth fortnight of 2022.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.