Comet Section        


January 3, 2023 – ALPO Comet News for January 2023

Happy New Year! Just like with 2022, 2023 starts out with a nice bright comet. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) begins the year at around magnitude 7.5. With perihelion on January 12 and a close approach to Earth at 0.29 au on February 1, E3 could peak as bright as magnitude 4.7 by the end of the month. Not super bright, but a nice binocular object for all and a borderline naked eye object for those under dark skies. Though the comet will be too far north for most southern hemisphere observers, it will be a circumpolar object for northern hemisphere observers.

While C/2022 E3 will be the center of attention in January, it won’t be the only comet visible. C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) will be around 8th magnitude for southern observers, while northerners will also be able to follow a trio of 9th magnitude comets: C/2020 V2 (ZTF), C/2022 A2 (PANSTARRS), and C/2022 U2 (ATLAS). Those able to go a little fainter (to magnitude 12.0) can also observed 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, 81P/Wild, C/2019 L3 (ATLAS), C/2019 U5 (PANSTARRS), and C/2020 K1 (PANSTARRS).

Somewhat surprisingly, the brightest comet of the month will not be C/2022 E3 (ZTF) but rather 96P/Machholz at 2nd magnitude or perhaps even brighter. But no one on Earth will be able to see 96P at that brightness with their own eyes. Instead, we’ll be able to watch it through the eyes of the SOHO spacecraft as it will only be a few degrees from the Sun at its brightest in late January.

Last month the ALPO Comets Section received 101 magnitude estimates and 67 images/sketches of comets C/2022 U2 (ATLAS), C/2022 P1 (NEOWISE), C/2022 E3 (ZTF), C/2022 A2 (PANSTARRS), C/2021 Y1 (ATLAS), C/2021 X1 (Maury-Attard), C/2021 T4 (Lemmon), C/2020 Y2 (ATLAS), C/2020 V2 (ZTF), C/2019 U5 (PANSTARRS), C/2019 L3 (ATLAS), C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), 119P/Parker-Hartley, 118P/Shoemaker-Levy, 81P/Wild, 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, and 22P/Kopff. A big thanks to our recent contributors: Dan Bartlett, Denis Buczynski, J. J. Gonzalez, Jose Guilherme de Souza Aguiar, Christian Harder, Carl Hergenrother, Eliot Herman, Michael Jager, Martin Mobberley, Uwe Pilz, Gregg Ruppel, and Chris Wyatt.

The monthly ALPO Comet News PDF can be found here. A shorter version of this report is posted on a dedicated Cloudy Nights forum. All are encouraged to join the discussion over at Cloudy Nights.

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