Comet tails!

Finally! After all the bad weather this past week the skies opened up on Friday and I was able to capture a few hours of images of comet 2022 E3 (ZTF). Comets get cumbersome, long names but the media has called it the “green comet” which it is in long exposures. Astrophotography is an involved process that involves taking multiple long exposures (from seconds to tens of minutes) and then “stacking” them in software to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. Comet photography is especially challenging as they are also moving rapidly. In this case, its hauling butt as a speeds toward the earth. Its motion is apparent in just a few minutes. You can see how much it moves against the stars in just a couple of hours in the video below. To create this image I had to use an AI tool to extract the stars and then stack stars and comet images separately before combing them in Photoshop. You can see the comet from areas away from lights with binoculars in the next few weeks. From a really dark location its just barely visible to the naked eye up between the big an little dippers. We have a full moon this week so best times will be after midnight when the moon is low in the west. ZTF will be closest to the earth on February 1st and should be very visible for several weeks as it speeds off into the outer solar system. Astronomers now believe that due to the gravitational deflection by the Sun, it will eventually leave the solar system for interstellar space and never return. You can learn more about the green comet and get up to date finder charts here.

Check this out – a video from the SOHO solar observatory satellite showing comet ZTF as its orbit takes it around the sound.

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