Christmas comet alert: 2022 E3 approaching

This photo of Comet 2022 E3


Although it is brightening as it approaches our Solar System, Comet 2022 E3 still too dim to see without a telescope.

And while not yet super bright, it could be visible in binoculars and make a nice target for astro-photography.

When it comes nearest the Earth and sun in early 2023, the comet should become easily visible in binoculars, and northern hemisphere residents may see it with a naked eye, according to earthsky.org.

Astranauts at the International Space Station shared their view of the comet, too.

C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a long period comet that was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility on March 2, 2022. The comet will reach its perihelion — the point at which it is closest to the sun — on January 12, 2023, at a distance of 1.11 AU. Its closest approach to Earth will be on February 1, 2023, at a distance of 0.28 AU.

An AU stands for astronomical unit — a unit of length, roughly equivalent to the distance from Earth to the Sun.

On February 11-12, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will have very close encounters with Mars.

This photo was taken by Alan Tough on December 20, 2022 New Mexico.