Science

Green comet that will be visible in the night sky next month loses part of its TAIL

This spectacular image shows the moment when the tail of a green comet that has not been seen since the Ice Age appears to break off in the night sky.

Astronomers believe the space rock, which will be visible to many stargazers on Earth next month, suffered a ‘disconnection’ event caused by turbulent space weather.

This effectively means a weakening in the comet’s tail that makes it look like it’s breaking up.

SpaceWeather.com experts say the outage was likely caused by a stronger-than-usual solar wind released during a recent coronal mass ejection (CME) from our sun.

Fascinating: This spectacular image shows the moment when the tail of a “once-in-a-generation” green comet appears to break off in the night sky. Astronomers believe the space rock suffered a ‘disconnect’ event caused by turbulent space weather

Observers In The Northern Hemisphere Will Find The Comet In The Morning Sky As It Moves Rapidly From Northeast To Northwest And Passes Between Ursa Minor And Ursa Major During January.

Observers in the Northern Hemisphere will find the comet in the morning sky as it moves rapidly from northeast to northwest and passes between Ursa Minor and Ursa Major during January.

KEY DATA: COMETA C/2022 E3

Last visible from Earth: The ice Age

Closest Approach to Earth: February 2

Next Visible: 50,000 years of time

Distance at closest approach: 26.4 million miles (42.5 million kilometers) from Earth

Discovered: March 2022

Seen by: The Zwicky Transitional Facility in California

Will it be visible to the naked eye? Possibly

Where to look: In the morning sky, to the northeast

“A piece of the ZTF comet’s tail has been torn off and is being blown away by the solar wind,” SpaceWeather.com wrote.

“CMEs hitting comets can cause magnetic reconnection in comet tails, sometimes ripping them off entirely.”

CMEs are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, before traveling through the solar system and interfering with the atmospheres of planets and other bodies such as comets.

SpaceWeather.com added that the comet’s approach to Earth coincided with a flurry of activity on the sun’s surface, with multiple CMEs sweeping across the space rock this month.

That might not be the end, either.

There are currently eight sunspots traversing the sun’s Earth-facing disk, according to the Met Office’s space weather arm, so more CMEs could still affect the comet as it approaches us.

This is because these sunspots have dense, twisted magnetic fields, which give rise to solar flares and CMEs.

The image was taken by Austrian astrophotographer Michael Jäger, who drove from his home 800 km (500 miles) to Bavaria in Germany to get a clear view of the night sky.

He shared his photo of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on Twitter.

The ‘once in a generation’ space rock was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California in March last year while inside the orbit of Jupiter.

In terms of passing our planet, it won’t be anywhere near. In fact, the closest it will get to Earth will be 42.5 million kilometers (26.4 million miles) on February 2.

Comets Are Notoriously Unpredictable, But If This One Continues On Its Current Bright Trend, It Should Be Easy To Spot With Binoculars Or A Telescope.

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues on its current bright trend, it should be easy to spot with binoculars or a telescope.

But astronomers don’t expect comet C/2022 E3 to visit Earth again for at least another 50,000 years, as it was last visible during the Ice Age.

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues on its current bright trend, it should be easy to spot with binoculars or a telescope.

Better yet, it may even be visible to the naked eye if the sky is dark towards the end of the month.

If that’s the case, it will be the first comet visible to the naked eye since NEOWISE passed Earth in 2020, though it won’t be nearly as spectacular.

NEOWISE left behind a long, misty tail, while E3 is likely to appear as a gray streak or blob in the night sky.

Comet C/2022 E3 (Ztf) Could Become The First Comet Visible To The Naked Eye Since Neowise Passed Earth In 2020, Although It Won'T Be As Spectacular. Comet Neowise Is Shown Over Lebanon In An Image Shared By Nasa In 2020

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) could become the first comet visible to the naked eye since NEOWISE passed Earth in 2020, although it won’t be as spectacular. Comet NEOWISE is shown over Lebanon in an image shared by NASA in 2020

However, none match the brilliance of Hale-Bopp, which was widely viewed in 1997.

Observers in the Northern Hemisphere will find the comet in the morning sky as it moves rapidly from northeast to northwest and passes between Ursa Minor and Ursa Major during January.

Comets are made of rocks covered in ice, methane, and other compounds, and have orbits that carry them much farther from the solar system than other space rocks.

Their tails are made of vaporized material and dust released by the comet as it warms closer to the sun.

It’s this that makes them so spectacular to photograph, because although the space rock itself is usually no more than a few miles across, its tail can sometimes extend hundreds of thousands of miles.

SOLAR STORMS POSE A CLEAR DANGER TO ASTRONAUTS AND CAN DAMAGE SATELLITES

solar stormsor solar activity, can be divided into four main components that may have impacts on Earth:

  • solar flares: A huge explosion in the sun’s atmosphere. These flares are made of photons traveling directly from the site of the flare. Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the Earth-facing side of the sun.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): Large clouds of plasma and magnetic field sprouting from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction and then continue in that direction, making their way through the solar wind. These clouds only cause impacts on Earth when they are pointed at Earth.
  • High speed solar wind currents: These come from coronal holes in the sun, which form anywhere on the sun and usually only when closest to the solar equator do winds impact Earth.
  • solar energetic particles: High-energy charged particles thought to be released primarily by shocks formed in front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud passes through the solar wind, energetic solar particles can be produced and, because they are charged, they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and Earth. Only charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect Earth will have an impact.

While these may seem dangerous, astronauts are not in immediate danger from these phenomena due to the relatively low orbit of crewed missions.

However, they do have to worry about cumulative exposure during spacewalks.

This Photo Shows The Sun'S Coronal Holes In An X-Ray Image. The Outer Solar Atmosphere, The Corona, Is Structured By Strong Magnetic Fields Which, When Closed, Can Cause The Atmosphere To Suddenly And Violently Release Bubbles Of Gas And Magnetic Fields Called Coronal Mass Ejections.

This photo shows the sun’s coronal holes in an X-ray image. The solar outer atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields, which when closed can cause the atmosphere to suddenly and violently release bubbles or tongues of gas and fields magnetic waves called coronal mass ejections.

Damage caused by solar storms

Solar flares can damage satellites and have a huge financial cost.

Charged particles can also threaten airlines by disturbing Earth’s magnetic field.

Very large flares can even create currents within power grids and shut off power.

When coronal mass ejections hit Earth, they cause geomagnetic storms and intensified auroras.

They can disrupt radio waves, GPS coordinates, and overload electrical systems.

A large influx of power could flow into high-voltage power grids and permanently damage transformers.

This could close businesses and homes around the world.

Font: NASA – Solar Storm and Space Weather

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Jacky

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

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