Comet Section        


February 4, 2023 – ALPO Comet News for February 2023

C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is at its best as February starts. Several observers have made naked eye detections during the last week of January. At between magnitude 4.6 and 5.1, ZTF is a very easy binocular object but will require dark skies to be seen with the naked eye. With a close approach to Earth at 0.29 au on February 1, the comet should fade rather rapidly in February and may be as faint as magnitude 8 by the end of the month. Though fading, its southern motion will allow southern mid-latitude observers a chance to see it early in the month.

C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is not the only reasonably bright comet. In the southern hemisphere, C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) is at 8th magnitude. Northern observers will also be able to follow 9th magnitude comets C/2020 V2 (ZTF), C/2022 A2 (PANSTARRS), and C/2022 U2 (ATLAS). While C/2020 V2 (ZTF) and C/2022 A2 (PANSTARRS) are limited to northern observers, C/2022 U2 (ATLAS) will be visible from the southern hemisphere as well.

Last month’s brightest comet wasn’t C/2022 E3 (ZTF) but rather 96P/Machholz at 0th to 2nd magnitude. Unfortunately, it was only visible through the eyes of the SOHO and STEREO-A spacecraft as it was only a few degrees from the Sun at its brightest in late January. Eagle eyed observers with a clear horizon may spot 96P later in the month low in the morning sky though it should have faded to 8-10th magnitude by then.

Last month the ALPO Comets Section received 83 magnitude estimates and 122 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 QM45 (PANSTARRS), C/2020 V2 (ZTF), C/2020 S4 (PANSTARRS), C/2019 U5 (PANSTARRS), C/2019 L3 (ATLAS), C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), 96P/Machholz, and 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann. A big thanks to our recent contributors: Michael Amato, Dan Bartlett, Michel Besson, Todd Bossaller, Denis Buczynski, J. J. Gonzalez, Jose Guilherme de Souza Aguiar, Christian Harder, Carl Hergenrother, Eliot Herman, Rik Hill, Michael Jäger, Martin Mobberley, Charles Morris, Mike Olason, Phill Parslow, Ludovic Perbet, Uwe Pilz, Allan Rahill, Efrain Morales Rivera, Gregg Ruppel, Anaël Semiat, Richard Schmude, Jr., Chris Schur, Greg T. Shanos, 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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