At last, the comet!

Dear friends of The Lonely Photon,

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard about the “Green Comet” or “Neanderthal Comet” that made the news early this year, and that has been roaming our skies for the past weeks.

Comets are small, icy bodies that originate in the outer solar system and become visible as they approach the Sun and release gas and dust, creating a glowing tail.

Read more here: The mysteries of outer space

Comet C/2022 E2 (ZTF) was first discovered in early March 2022, but only made its appearance in our sky in January. According to astronomers’ estimations, the comet has an orbital period of approximately 50,000 years ago, meaning that Neanderthals were still walking the Earth last time the comet came close to us. Who knows what it will find when it comes back in another 50,000 years…

Obviously, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to photograph this stunning icy body as it approached our planet, but the weather in Luxembourg has been miserable since early October, and honestly I had almost lost hope and gave up.

Luckily though, February unexpectedly presented me with the opportunity, and hell yeah I jumped on it !

Producing an image of a comet is no easy task, however. Comets move at very high speeds and require a different approach in terms of post-processing when compared to other Deep Sky Objects (DSOs).

Despite this, and a bright full Moon washing out most details, I’m very pleased with the end result. Here’s my final version of the comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF):

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) shows a bright green glow around its nucleus, which is caused by the effect of sunlight on diatomic carbon and cyanogen; this is typical of comets with a high gas content.

The nucleus was estimated to be about a kilometre in size, rotating every 8.7 hours, while its tail of dust and gas extended for millions of kilometres. The comet’s brighter greenish coma, short broad dust tail, and long faint ion tail stretch across a 2.5 degree wide field-of-view.

Here’s a video of the comet, which shows the extreme speed at which these objects are moving in their orbits around the Sun.

If you can’t visualize the video correctly, follow this link: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

I hope you enjoyed it, stay tuned for more!

Clear skies!