By Dr. S.N. Prasad, Amateur Astronomer, Mysuru
This rather elusive Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has been making the news for some time with confusing and even misleading media descriptions about its naked-eye visibility.
The comet, first discovered in March 2022 by astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California, has been brightening since November, wowing astrophotographers with its brilliant green tail.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is currently making its way through the northern skies and should reach its brightest magnitude in early February, according to In-The-Sky.org
After a considerable effort, my friend and associate M. Krishnamurthy, a hardened amateur astronomer of Mysuru city, successfully sighted the visitor through his Celestron 8” telescope a few days ago at his home and kept track of it over the following days.
Early on the morning of Jan. 29, he set up this telescope at a more favourable location just outside the city and three of us, B. Chiranjeevi, Vidya Priya and myself, joined him in the nocturnal hunt.
We first sighted the faint, nebulous coma of the comet, without a noticeable tail of any kind, around 1.50 am through a low-powered eyepiece using the well-known technique of averted vision and followed it up at regular intervals until 5.30 am.
In between, we used the opportunity afforded by beautifully clear skies to view a large number of night sky objects best visible through small telescopes.
We did not have the technical resources to take a presentable photograph of the comet. The picture of the comet you see in this report is a recent one taken from a NASA source, with acknowledgement.
Contrary to media indications, we could not locate the comet with the naked eye, or even through binoculars. This could be partly due to the influence of city lights and we might have fared better in a truly rural environment.
Because of a waxing moon, we may have a reasonable opportunity for viewing the comet only in the next two days during the present lunar cycle. In light of our experience, it may be futile to try to view the comet with the unaided eye, especially in urban locations. It may not be visible clearly even otherwise. One should not be guided by dubious reports of its sighting without optical aid.