How to watch a green comet in Florida

Statewide – A celestial visitor, the famous green comet, is due to appear, and a local astronomer has some tips for how to view it.

The green comet, formally known as C/2022 E3/ZTF, may not be as bright to the naked eye as many expect, said Jonathan Sabin, chair of the Tampa Bay Area Local Deep Sky Observations Group.

But Sabine has some tips that will help those hoping to spy on this cosmic guest, who last visited Earth some 50,000 years ago. (And the flying snowball was only discovered in March 2022, NASA reported.)

The green comet has a lot of stargazers looking up. (NASA/Dan Bartlett)

So the farther the observer is from the bright lights, the better. However, even under the darkest skies that Florida has to offer, they won’t be “obvious” in the night sky. People will need to know where to look in the sky, Sabin explained, and for many People, it would look like a dim smudge of light.

So don’t expect something very bright in the night sky, like the Hale-Bopp comet that was in 1997, he suggested.

“…that would be (despite all the press it’s getting) very hard (to see). That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try to look.” said Sabin, who has been a member of the Deep Sky Observers’ local group since 1983 when It was formed and he has been president since 2016.

The comet will reach its closest point to Earth on Wednesday, February 1.

He said that the green comet would appear all evening in the northern sky, between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. With each passing night, it will appear higher in the night sky, until it is overhead and “very close to the bright star Capella,” on Sunday, February 5, according to Sabin.

For those who want to capture this emerald sight, Sabine gets to know what Floridians need. At the very least, a camera that can take exposure photos of at least 15-30 seconds and a tripod to keep the camera steady.

However, Sabin offers a warning to those in the sunshine state who think they might be in for something excellent.

“As long as the image is pointing in the general direction of the comet, they will probably be able to pick up at least a ‘blurry point’ in the image,” he said. “I will note that a number of camera phones (including recent models of the iPhone) have a ‘night mode’.” Which delivers a surprisingly respectable picture when photographing objects in the dark.”

And another thing Sabine shared: unlike shooting stars that oscillate, comets are “fixed.” Yes, they’re moving, but “when you look at a comet, for all intents and purposes it looks like it’s going to be motionless,” Sabin said.

Therefore, while looking at it through a camera, telescope, or binoculars, you have to make adjustments to it to track its trajectory because it will change its position due to the Earth’s rotation, Sabin stated. Much like looking at the moon, it is in motion.

And for those who use a telescope or binoculars, Sabine also has a few suggestions.

“Know where to point your equipment. The higher the magnification you use, the narrower the field of view, so it is important to know exactly where you are looking. Binoculars are a great tool because they offer the widest field of view. If they are using a telescope, definitely start with the lens that Give the lowest magnification.

For many, a once-in-a-lifetime visit from a green comet may be the catalyst for sparking interest in astronomy.

For Sabine, it was a journey at a very young age.

“My interest in astronomy began when my parents took me to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City when I was 5 years old. That interest has not waned in the 57 years since!” he shared.

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