Once in 50,000 years: Celestial spectacle to light up UAE skies this month – News

Once in 50,000 years: Celestial spectacle to light up UAE skies this month - News


Those wanting to observe the comet from their homes can do so with special equipment



Image used for illustrative purposes only

Published: Sat 14 Jan 2023, 9:26 AM

A once-in-a-lifetime comet from the outer solar system will be passing close to Earth for the first time in 50,000 years. In the next few weeks, UAE residents will get an opportunity to see it.

Comet 2022 E3 (ZTF) will pass closest to Earth on February 1, 2023, at a distance of around 26 million miles. It will be equally visible till February 5, 2023.

According to Dubai Astronomy Group CEO Hasan Al Hariri the comet brightness can be difficult to predict. “Even if it does not brighten enough to be seen with the naked eye, it will still be viewable with binoculars and small telescopes around January and early February,” he said.

Viewing

Dubai Astronomy Group will host a special ticketed event on February 4, 2023, at the Al Qudra desert in Dubai from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. It will include comet, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and deep sky objects telescope observations, astrophotography sessions, sky mapping and more.

Those wanting to observe the celestial body from their homes can do so with special equipment. “The best tools to observe the comet are binoculars,” said Hasan Al Hariri. “It has a wide-angle field of view of the sky so hunting down the comet becomes much easier than using a telescope because that has a narrow-angle field of view which makes it harder to locate the comet.”

The diagram below indicates the position of the comet during this time.

The Comet

Comets are icy bodies of frozen gases, rocks, and dust left over from the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. But when they approach the sun and heat up, they become powerful cosmic objects, spewing gases and dust in a way that forms their iconic shape: a glowing core and flame-like tail that can stretch on for millions of miles.

Comets are named according to how and when they were originally observed. This particular comet’s name encodes such information:

  • The letter C means the comet is not periodic (it will only pass through the Solar System once or may take more than 200 years to orbit the Sun);
  • 2022 E3 indicates that the comet was spotted in early March 2022 and was the 3rd such object discovered in the same period.
  • ZTF means the discovery was made using telescopes of the Zwicky Transient Facility.

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