The so-called binocular comet C/2022 E3, which is relatively easy to observe because of its brightness, reaches the closest point in its orbit to Earth on Wednesday. According to information from astronomy associations, it can even be seen with the naked eye these days, among other things due to the corresponding lunar conditions. The comet orbits the sun approximately every 50,000 years.
C/2022 E3 came that close to Earth for the last time in the Stone Age, during an epoch in which modern humans of the genus Homo Sapiens were immigrating to Europe and meeting their Neanderthal relatives there. On January 12, the comet reached the point closest to the sun on its orbit, now it flies past the earth at a distance of only 42 million kilometers. Then he slowly moves away from her. Comets are considered to be remnants of the formation of our solar system around 4.6 billion years ago. They are made of ice, dust and stones and are therefore also compared to dirty giant snowballs. When they approach the sun on their journey through space, they often form glowing tails due to the pressure of the particle radiation emanating from it.
According to specialist associations such as the House of Astronomy in Heidelberg or the Association of Star Friends, the comet reaches its greatest brightness in January and February due to its proximity to the sun and earth and can therefore be observed comparatively well overall. During this period, it can be seen high up in the sky all night near North Star. According to this, the celestial body can be easily observed with binoculars during this time, but under certain circumstances it can also be viewed with the naked eye if the conditions are very good. In this case, however, the viewer must know, among other things, exactly where the comet is located in the night sky.
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Since the brightness of the moon is also an important factor when observing the sky, the first optimal time window for comet observation was, according to the Association of Star Friends, shortly before the end of January. Since then, the increasing moonlight has been disturbing, on February 5th it is full moon again. With the waning moon, a second favorable observation window follows in the second week of February. From around mid-February, C/2022 E3 will once again move so far away from the Sun on its elliptical orbit that it can no longer be observed with binoculars.