Comet ZTF

Here we go again – another new comet that “might” brighten to just barely naked eye visibility – maybe. The brightness of comets is notoriously hard to predict since as they near the sun some of their mass will boil away from the intense solar heat. Comets are bundles of ice and rock left over from when the planets condensed out of the gas cloud that formed the sun and the rest of our solar system. Some, like Haley’s Comet, are periodic and return in years or decades. ZTF may be a new comet that has recently been perturbed by a passing asteroid so it leaves its home out in the outer solar system for a quick turn around the sun. It may return in 50,000 years. I have included a finder chart below. You can get more information here. Its still pretty low in the northwest but will be getting higher as it heads toward the earth after having rounded the sun last week. Peak brightness should occur in the first week of February. Note that the finder chart is for 12:00 midnight EST and since the stars appear to rotate around Polaris in the handle of the little dipper, it will be a bit higher earlier in the evening. Do let me know if you spot it. I will be trying to grab photos on clear nights and will post them here.

Stellarium with additions by Bob King

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