QUEZON CITY — A few amateur astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts went to the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in UP Diliman to go comet-hunting.
However, the city skyglow (light pollution) and the waxing gibbous moon’s illumination renders the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) invisible to the naked eye. Even with the powerful 45-cm reflector telescope, the comet’s green tail can only be seen very faintly.
Discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, the green comet was last seen 50,000 years ago or during the last Ice Age. Its green color is a result of the interaction of its gaseous molecules, mainly diatomic carbon and cyanogen, with the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Tonight, February 1, the comet makes its closest approach (perigee) to Earth. It will be seen crossing the night sky from the Northeast to the Northwest until past midnight.
PAGASA astronomer Lordnico Mendoza says those in the rural areas with lower light pollution may have a better chance of seeing the comet even with the naked eye.
On February 10, it will be seen close to Mars near the western horizon after nightfall. It will start moving away from Earth in the second half of February.