Interesting Space News

STATE OF THE EARTH SPECIAL REPORT: Monday, 26 September, 2022

Read Jim Hale’s special report click link above

“Will Jupiter make the Earth Quake”

Jim Hale’s
State of the Earth Report

For Monday, 6 February, 2023

This was the 37th day of the year with 328 days remaining.

The Sun is in the astro-Nomical constellation Capricorn, and the astro-Logical sign of Aquarius. The Waning Gibbous Moon was in the astro-Nomical constellation Leo and the astro-Logical sign of Leo, moving into Virgo.

Are you one of those people who has trouble sleeping when the Moon is full? Do you feel kind of jittery until the Moon has passed its full phase? Did you turn into a werewolf on Saturday night? If you answered yes to any of these questions you can relax now. The Full Snow Moon came on Sunday, and although it is still very bright, the Moon is now in Waning Gibbous mode.

The Boulder Sunspot count was 79. That’s up 23 from Friday, and the Geomagnetic field has been Quiet but showing some signs of its own Full Moon jitters over the weekend. Charged solar particles are streaming towards Earth from recent coronal hole emissions, and it appears that a very active sunspot region is on the verge of rotating into Earth view. The Planetary K Index has risen above 3 and any further surges could bring Auroral activity to southern Canada and similar latitudes soon.

A story that literally “blew up” over the weekend concerns the alleged Chinese Spy Balloon, aka the alleged Chinese Weather Balloon. Isn’t it fitting that officials in China try to use the old weather balloon trick just like the US officials have been doing for so many years? By a strange coincidence, we have our own personal experience to share about a similar high altitude balloon that we saw about a year ago very near the area where the Chinese balloon was shot down — but that story will have to wait because today’s events in Turkey have had a more immediate impact on the State of the Earth.

Even if you have stopped watching the news you’ve probably heard about the 7.8 Magnitude earthquake that devastated parts of Turkey today. The death toll currently stands at over 3,000 with many times more than that injured and displaced. Those numbers will likely rise considerably as search and rescue efforts continue. More than 3,400 buildings were reportedly destroyed, including many inhabited multi-level structures that simply collapsed into piles of rubble and dust with no warning.

Most news sources are mentioning that there was an almost equally powerful 7.5 aftershock about 9 hours after the 7.8 quake struck, but in fact the US Geological Survey has recorded nearly 100 significant aftershocks stretching across an area nearly 200 miles long. These strong aftershocks have been continuing literally every few minutes throughout the day, and any one of them, which have ranged from the middle 4’s to at least 6.7 in Magnitude, could be responsible for significant impacts in densely populated areas with structures that aren’t built to withstand the effects.

It seems that earthquake prediction, whether left in the hands of scientists or psychics, is something that defies all our best efforts. We can only wonder whether the changes in the Earth’s rotational speed, or perhaps the recent news reports about the Earth’s core having stopped spinning could have something to do with all the recent seismic events. It was especially interesting to learn that Earth’s core can be studied by analyzing wave patterns in the earthquake data that’s being received at various monitoring stations around the globe — in other words this confirms something we were

speculating about a few weeks ago – that is, whether earthquakes on one side of the world could have some effects on the opposite side. And indeed, a 3.8 Magnitude quake was felt in the unlikely area of Seneca, New York today, right in between two of the stronger aftershocks in Turkey, and New York happens to lie on about the same line of latitude as Turkey. Also there were about half a dozen minor earthquakes in Alaska today, and Alaska is almost directly opposite Turkey as you can see on any world globe.

We’ll post two images showing locations of the 90+ earthquakes that have shaken Turkey and the surrounding area today. The first shows the place names and roads in the area. Note that a 4.5 quake has just occurred in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria. This is the southernmost quake recorded in the region during today’s flurry of activity.

The second image is a close up satellite view of the territory involved.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

For Friday, 3 February, 2023

This was the 34th day of the year with 331 days remaining.

The Sun is in the astro-Nomical constellation Capricorn, and the astro-Logical sign of Aquarius. The Waxing Gibbous Moon was in the astro-Nomical constellation Gemini and the astro-Logical sign of Cancer, moving into Leo.

The Full Moon will come on Sunday, February 5th. This one is known as the Full Snow Moon, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Moon is near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini, the constellation of the Twins tonight. Tomorrow night look for the Moon in the constellation Leo the Lion. Mars will be rising a few hours ahead of the Moon over the next several nights, and it should be easy to spot hovering above Orion. Mars, along with Betelgeuse in Orion and Aldeberan in nearby Taurus, should make an interesting trio of red colored celestial objects.

We’ve mentioned Comet 96P Macchholz a few times and it has been drawing a lot of scientific attention recently. The comet was discovered in 1986 by an amateur astronomer named Donald Machholz who was reportedly looking for comets using binoculars that had 5” diameter objective lenses. (Most common binoculars have objective lenses about 2” or less in diameter.) The Machholz comet has an unusual chemical make-up and an oddball trajectory which suggests that it originated in some unexplored region of distant outer space or possibly came from a different solar system.

Two fairly widespread fireball sightings from the US were reported to the American Meteor Society yesterday. The first occurred at 1112 UT (a little after 6:00 AM EST) and was seen along a line stretching from New York through Michigan and Indiana. The second was at 2308 UT, or just after 6:00 PM, almost exactly 12 hours later. This one was seen a little farther east, over New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

The Boulder Sunspot Number was 56. That’s down 33 from yesterday and the lowest number we’ve seen in quite a while. In spite of the lack of sunspots, major flares, or coronal holes, there was another surprising surge in the Geomagnetic field today, although it was still at Quiet levels. The Planetary K Index rose to around 3 this afternoon so there might be some Auroral activity in the far northern latitudes overnight.

Sunspots and solar outbursts are directly related to the Aurorae which can provide awe-inspiring entertainment for observers in the right place and time. Otherwise though, extreme solar activity can have negative impacts on satellites in orbit as well as electrical and communications systems on the ground.

Some of the websites we keep up with are celebrating the fact that the current solar cycle – which is number 25 by the way –hit a 9 year high last month. Solar cycle 25 has exceeded all the expert’s predictions so far, but the fact is that solar cycle 25, as well as previous cycle, number 24, are the two weakest performers in over 200 years.

The graph posted below, from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, shows historical sunspot count records going back to the year 1750. As you can see, if any sunspot celebrations are called for it should be because the Sun isn’t being as violent as it usually is.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

For Thursday, 2 February, 2023

This was the 33rd day of the year with 332 days remaining.

This was the 33rd day of the year with 332 days remaining.

This was the 33rd day of the year with 332 days remaining.

(Sorry that was a Groundhog Day movie joke.)

The Sun is in the astro-Nomical constellation Capricorn, and the astro-Logical sign of Aquarius. The Waxing Gibbous Moon was in the astro-Nomical constellation Gemini and the astro-Logical sign of Cancer.

Did anyone see Venus and think it was a UFO last night? Probably not, but sky watchers in Hawaii saw something on January 18th that looked like it was right out of a science fiction movie. It was a big blue spiraling formation that seemed to grow and move across the sky over the course of several minutes. Observers in New Zealand witnessed something similar back in June of last year. Both cases are being attributed to SpaceX rocket launches and resulted when gases being vented from the rocket booster stages crystallized into a spinning whirlpool formation high above the Earth. If you search online for “blue spiral in sky over Hawaii” you should find some very interesting photos and videos.

Comet 2022 E3 ZTF is as close to the Earth today as it will ever be, so now’s the time to look for it. Remember, it has moved much closer to the Big Dipper and the North Star, so try scanning that area of the sky with binoculars or a telescope and let us know if you can find it. Meanwhile the other comet in the news, 96P Machholz, survived its recent close encounter with the Sun and researchers are hinting that some interesting news concerning it will be coming soon.

The Boulder Sunspot Number was 89 so that’s up a healthy 24 from yesterday. There was a surprising surge of activity in the Geomagnetic field around midnight UT last night. The Planetary K Index peaked between 3 and 4 over a span of several hours and observers in far northern latitudes were treated to some colorful Auroras. The K Index has dropped below 1 again at this time and no unusual geomagnetic activity is expected, but obviously surprises do happen.

A 5.0 Magnitude earthquake rocked south-central Alaska at 1448 UT, or about 5:48 AM this morning their local time. The epicenter was located about 75 miles west of Anchorage in an area that is no stranger to earthquakes. So far no word on casualties or damage, and we’re still trying to learn whether any Alaskan groundhogs were affected.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

For Wednesday, 1 February, 2023

This was the 32nd day of the year with 333 days remaining. The Sun is in the astro-Nomical constellation Capricorn, and the astro-Logical sign of Aquarius. The Waxing Gibbous Moon was in the astro-Nomical constellation Taurus and the astro-Logical sign of Cancer.

Be sure to take a look at the planets Venus and Jupiter early this evening. Venus is shining very brightly in the west. Jupiter is standing higher in the sky and not as bright as Venus, but it’s brighter than most stars. These two planets will be moving closer together throughout the month. And remember, skeptics think that Venus is often mistaken for being a UFO, so take a look and let us know if you see any resemblance.

Comet 2022 E3 ZTF is making its closest approach to the Earth today and tomorrow so it should be at its brightest and easiest to spot. If you’re ever going to see for the next 50,000 years, now’s the time. Note that it has moved much closer to the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star now. Try scanning the area between those two reference points, and let us know if you would like to see an updated finder chart.

No widespread fireball sightings or extremely close Near Earth Objects have been reported today. Meteor activity is low with no major showers on tap until April, but you never know when or where a random fireball might appear.

The Boulder Sunspot Number was 65 so that’s down 2 more from yesterday. There was a massive explosion that sent billions of tons of solar material hurling into space today, but it wasn’t aimed at Earth. The source of this major flare might have been one of the supersized sunspots that was facing Earth just a few days ago, so once again it seems that we must have dodged a big solar bullet. The Planetary K Index has been hovering around 1 today, and the Geomagnetic field is Quiet.

A 6.0 Magnitude rocked parts of the southern Philippines earlier today. Details are scarce with no word on casualties, but it does seem that minor to moderate structural damage was extensive.

Special Report on Time and the Earth’s Rotation (Part 14)

After 5,000 years of striving for more accurate time measurement systems, it seems we might have finally reached a point that’s good enough. Maybe a little too good, in fact. Our ability to measure time has gotten more precise than time itself actually is.

Julius Caesar’s introduction of Leap Years and Pope Gregory’s later refinements to the concept were good enough for hundreds of years, but in 1972 somebody somewhere who was neither a Dictator, a King, nor a Pope decided we needed Leap Seconds in order to keep our atomic clocks in sync with the Earth’s ever-changing speed of rotation. Well, a lot of things that seemed like good ideas in the 70’s haven’t stood the test of time, and with the development of satellite technology, the internet, cell phones, etc:

(Quote) The Leap Second is now doing more damage than good. (Unquote)

That’s the officially sanctioned opinion of two software engineers for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, and in an online article entitled, “It’s Time to Leave the Leap Second in the Past,” they add:

(Quote) Leap second events have caused issues across the industry and continue to present many risks. As an industry, we bump into problems whenever a leap second is introduced. (Unquote.)

Notable consequences from recent Leap Second insertions include the June 30th, 2012 event when internet services like Foursquare, Reddit, Amazon Cloud, Mozilla, and many others suffered strange glitches and even complete outages that lasted until the engineers could figure out what had happened and come up with a solution.

At the instant of midnight between New Year’s Eve 2016 and New Year’s Day 2017, another Leap Second was added to the clock and that one shut down the internet service Cloudflare for many users. If you’ve never heard of Cloudflare, here’s how they describe themselves:

(Quote) Cloudflare is one of the biggest networks operating on the Internet. People use Cloudflare services for the purposes of increasing the security and performance of their web sites and services. (Unquote)

Fortunately these disruptions were temporary, but with so much of the world’s economy riding on the internet these days, it’s easy to understand just how serious such problems could be for both the internet businesses and their customers.

Adding to the potential for internet chaos, recent findings that the Earth has started spinning faster means the possibility of implementing a “negative leap second” has arisen. Technology experts everywhere are warning against that idea. Adding an extra second to your critical time-stamped software at unpredictable intervals is tricky, even after having some experience with it. But subtracting a second that has already happened is unprecedented and no one really knows what the unexpected consequences could be.

Do you remember from Part 6 of this series, the riots that took place in 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in England and protestors were waving banners demanding, “Give Us Back Our Eleven Days”? Well, now you can imagine gangs of software developers marching in the streets with signs saying “Give Us Back Our One Second.”

We haven’t needed another Leap Second since the one in 2016/2017, and The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service – yes, there really is such a thing – has announced there won’t be one in June of 2023, which is when the next one might have been scheduled. Furthermore, this past November, at the 27th General Conference of Weights and Measures held outside Paris, an international group of Time Lords decided that those annoying Leap Seconds will be officially abolished by the year 2035.

In other words, we may or may not be inserting another Leap Second – positive or negative – between now and 2035, but after that we probably have to wait until the Earth’s rotation gets so out of sync with International Atomic Time that we will need to add a Leap Minute.

Perhaps the most frightening thing about all this concern over a second in time is that our entire civilization depends on it now. As Watt Earp often said back in the 1880’s, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

The logo of The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service is shown below.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

For Tuesday, 31 January, 2023

This was the 31st day of the year with 334 days remaining. The Sun is in the astro-Nomical constellation Capricorn, and the astro-Logical sign of Aquarius. The Waxing Gibbous Moon was in the astro-Nomical constellation Taurus and the astro-Logical sign of Gemini, moving into Cancer.

Did you see the lunar occultation of Mars last night? If you missed it don’t worry, there’s another one coming in January of 2025. The Moon has passed by the red planet now but they’re still hovering fairly close to each other. Venus and Jupiter are shining very brightly in the early evening and these two planets will also be approaching each other more closely during February. Mercury will be visible in the east just before sunrise but mostly for observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

Comet 2022 E3 ZTF will be making its closest approach to the Earth tomorrow so it should be at its brightest and most easily visible for anyone lucky enough to have clear dark skies overnight. In the past few days another comet has been getting some buzz because it is getting ready to buzz the Sun. Comet 96P Machholz was discovered by an amateur astronomer in 1986, and it appears to have a rather unusual chemical makeup and trajectory which is leading to speculation it might have originated from some place beyond our solar system. This comet is too close to the Sun to be visible to the eye, but there are some interesting images of it available online.

A few dozen people across England, France, Holland and Belgium reported a bright fireball seen just after midnight UT today.

The Boulder Sunspot Number was 67 so that’s down another 13 from yesterday. With no strong solar activity recently the Aurora has retreated to the far northern latitudes, and the Geomagnetic field remains Quiet. The Planetary K Index did bump up above 3 briefly.

And there have been two more small earthquakes in West Texas today.

Special Report on Time and the Earth’s Rotation (Part 13)

If you’ve been following these reports from the beginning you might remember it all started with a listener’s question about news that the Earth is spinning faster and what effect this would have on clocks. Our investigation into the matter turned into a not so brief history of time. We’ve learned a lot about the development of more and more accurate time measurement systems through the ages, and how each major advancement in time measurement was accompanied by a major shift in the overall character and quality of life at each step of the way.

Of course, every time there was a step forward into a new way of life, it meant the end of an old way of life. In most cases it wasn’t a sudden ending though; there was usually some initial resistance, and some lag time before the changes were fully assimilated. The people affected never knew exactly how or to what extent their new way of measuring time would transform their lives, but once their way of life had been changed and new generations had been born and raised under the new system, the old ways would mostly be forgotten.

If we consider humanity’s obsession with more accurate time measurement going back over 4,000 years to the Egyptian’s sundials then to Julius Caesar’s calendar about 2,000 years ago and ultimately to Pope Gregory’s addition of the Leap Year some 1600 years after that, we could say that our customary system for counting the days of the year has held up pretty well for nearly 5 centuries. It might surprise you to learn that there are actually many different calendar systems currently being used for specific applications where the Gregorian calendar leaves something to be desired, and who knows when one of these alternative systems might become the new standard for tracking the days of our lives? (After all, how many things are still in everyday use that date all the way back to 1582?)

By comparison, keeping accurate track of all the individual minutes and seconds in a day is practically a brand new cultural phenomenon that has changed our lives dramatically — especially since the adoption of standard time zones. There aren’t many people in the modern world whose lives aren’t regulated to the minute of standard time, and whether the wristwatch they’re wearing bears the name Rolex or Apple, watches have become symbols of status as well as an expression of one’s individual personality in our culture.

We don’t usually think in terms of carrying an atomic clock around with us, but that just shows how the latest time measuring technology has worked its way into our lives without us even realizing it. If you have a smart phone or a smart watch close by, you are basically connected to an atomic clock, and in part 12 of this series we pointed out how atomic clocks are interacting with something somewhere along the line at virtually every second of your life.

So isn’t it interesting to think that after all these thousands of years from

sundials to atomic clocks, the question of “what time is it” still comes down to something about the position of the Sun in relation to a given point on Earth? The relationship between Sun Time and a geographical location isn’t as commonly known as it once was, and we don’t see every city and town observing its own local time like they did before Standard Railway Time came along. Instead, in accordance with agreements reached at the International Meridian Conference in 1884, a day begins when it is midnight at the line of longitude that runs through (quote) “the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of

Greenwich” (unquote) and from there a worldwide system of 24 standard time zones was established with Greenwich, England’s longitude being declared the zero point or “The Prime Meridian”.

Ultimately though, time of day still refers to an observed position of the Sun in relation to an arbitrary point on the Earth’s surface. Thanks to Albert Einstein, our technique for measuring time has, for the first time, become more precise than the thing we’re measuring – i.e., the Earth’s rotation. As a result, we have to keep making adjustments to our time.

For most of the Atomic Clock Age the Earth has been slowing down with each day taking a few thousandths of a second longer to make one complete rotation, more or less. So, beginning in 1972 (the year after the Hafele-Keating experiment with atomic clocks on jet airplanes, by the way) in order to keep Coordinated Universal Time within one second of the observed astronomical time, officials in charge of the world’s time clock have been adding “Leap Seconds” when needed. Much like the Leap Days we add every four years or so to keep our calendars on track with the Earth’s annual orbit around the Sun, Leap Seconds are added to keep our clocks on track with the Earth’s daily rotations.

A total of 27 Leap Seconds have been added to our accumulated clock time since 1972, and until the fairly recent takeover of our lives by atomic clocks those Leap Seconds came and went with very little notice. Now, however, with so many things in the world relying on nanosecond timing, these Leap Seconds have become very problematic.

And as if adding an extra second to the world’s time keeping devices every so often wasn’t challenging enough, if the Earth keeps spinning faster we could soon find ourselves needing to use “negative leap seconds” – which means we’d actually be taking away a second that had already happened.

Hmm . . . think about that for a bit . . .

The graph below shows the ongoing changes in Earth’s rotational speed since the 1960’s. The rate always fluctuates but the overall trend has been toward a faster spin, and at some point in 2020 we crossed the zero line and started spinning slightly faster than the standard 86,400 seconds per day.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

For Monday, 30 January, 2023

This was the 30th day of the year with 335 days remaining. The Sun is in the astro-Nomical constellation Capricorn, and the astro-Logical sign of Aquarius. The Waxing Gibbous Moon was in the astro-Nomical constellation Taurus and the astro-Logical sign of Gemini.

The Moon and Mars will be moving close together tonight and the Moon will actually pass directly over Mars for observers in parts of the southern US plus all of Mexico and Central America. This “lunar occultation” will be seen in the US beginning with Florida and then in an arc stretching across the southernmost parts of the Gulf coast states and south Texas through Arizona and southern California.

The event will begin around 9:00PM EST and last about four hours. Everyone will see the Moon and reddish Mars close together tonight, so even if you’re not in the area where the occultation can be seen they’re worth a look. Binoculars and telescopes are not required but they would add to the level of detail you can see.

A fireball was seen in the northeastern corner of the US at around 11:23PM EST Friday night. The American Meteor Society received reports from about 66 people in the areas from around New York northward to Montreal and Ottawa, Canada. Several videos and photos of the fireball have been posted online.

The Boulder Sunspot Number was 80. That’s down 24 from yesterday, and approaching some of the lowest numbers seen in the past several months. Has the solar cycle fizzled out early or is this just the calm before the storm? The Planetary K Index has been ranging around 2 and the Geomagnetic field is Quiet with no unusual Auroral activity expected in the near future.

Regular listeners may remember our comments about the 5.4 Magnitude earthquake that occurred in west Texas back in November. Until then we hadn’t noticed any earthquake activity in that area, but smaller quakes in the same general area which includes southern New Mexico soon became so commonplace we eventually stopped reporting on them. Quakes in the 2 to low 3 Magnitude category have become an almost daily occurrence, and in fact there were two more of those today. On January 28th the New York Times ran an article titled “In Texas Oil Country, an Unfamiliar Threat: Earthquakes” which told about their recent flurry of earthquakes and confirmed our suspicions that these quakes were not natural occurrences but were being triggered by oil drilling and fracking operations.

The drilling process involves pumping literally billions of gallons of wastewater into the ground which can result in dislodging the underground rock structure and produce manmade earthquakes. Similar activity has been going on in Oklahoma for several years, but the phenomenon seems to be new for Texas.

Special Report on Time and the Earth’s Rotation (Part 12)

It’s been a little more than 50 years since the Hafele-Keating experiment first demonstrated that the effects of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity could be detected using atomic clocks in a real world situation. Whereas their experiment involved taking the clocks on high-speed, high altitude excursions around the world in order to produce any noticeable difference in clock times, the latest technological advancements have led to atomic clocks capable of measuring the incredibly small but very real effects of relativity by simply raising or lowering them a few centimeters in height.

So who really needs this level of time keeping precision? The answer is, no one . . .

As long as you don’t use the internet, a cell phone, or for that matter even a landline phone nowadays, you might get along OK without atomic clocks. Oh, of course you wouldn’t be able to use credit or debit cards anywhere, and even paying for purchases in cash would be a challenge since just about every place of business relies on some sort of an electronic communication system for conducting their transactions now — and the entire world’s network of electronic telecommunication systems is universally synchronized with International Atomic Time (TAI). In fact, without atomic clocks the global financial markets would be thrown into chaos because of their dependence on making electronic transactions involving billions or trillions of dollars at any given second by knowing precisely when that transaction took place to within some thousandths of the second.

Without atomic clocks you can forget about using any sort of GPS system to guide you from one location to another, because if the timing of the GPS satellites is off by even a few nanoseconds you could be sent hundreds of miles in the wrong direction – assuming you didn’t crash into another vehicle, building, river or what not first. All of our aircraft and ocean vessels depend on continuous GPS monitoring, and of course the GPS satellites themselves, as well as every other satellite up there would come crashing down without the precision calibration needed between their on board atomic clock and reference atomic clocks on the ground – a multi-path system that keeps track of time while continuously accounting for the ever-changing effects of relativity.

These days atomic clocks are running somewhere in the background of just about every activity and application you can imagine. Whether you’re a fisherman using a GPS receiver to help locate the best spot to wet your line, or working on an offshore oil rig that relies on GPS to maintain its proper position at sea, you’re dependent on atomic clocks. Whether you’re a cashier at the Dollar Store or an astronaut on board the International Space Station, you’re using an atomic clock. If you’re paying with a debit card at the local gas pump, or playing some video game with a virtual friend halfway across the world, you are using an atomic clock – or more accurately, an ensemble of hundreds of atomic clocks around the world all ticking together to tell us what time it is.

So like we said, no one really needs this level of precision time measurement as long as everyone is agreeable to returning to the lifestyle we had in the mid-20th century. Let’s say 1947, the year before the first atomic clock was built — pre-internet, pre-cell phone, pre-plastic representations of money, pre-satellite TV, pre-Amazon-e-bay-Facebook and all the rest.

The only problem is, before we get back to that Leave it to Beaver lifestyle of the 1950’s, we’re probably going to have to go through something more akin to the world of Mad Max, The Terminator, and The Land That Time Forgot. Stay tuned for Part 13 . . .

The publicity photo below shows three of the scientists involved in Project Tic Toc from ABC TV’s 1966 sci-fi series “The Time Tunnel”. Note their non-atomic wrist watches.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

  • Here’s our advice for trying to see Comet C2022 E3 ZTF:
  • These comments are intended mainly for people who have a healthy interest in this kind of thing but aren’t necessarily expert astronomers, so we won’t trouble you with Right Ascension and Declination values. That would take all the fun out of it anyway. Also, keep in mind that comets are constantly moving with respect to the fixed stars, so these instructions will only apply for a limited time.
  • First of all, you will need very clear and very dark skies, as far from city lights as possible, specifically somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. You will also need a good pair of binoculars and/or a telescope. The comet will be above the horizon after midnight, but we think the best time for viewing will be between about 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM your local time. It is currently near the constellation Corona Borealis, but that’s not easy to locate if you’re not an experienced stargazer. Everybody knows where the Big Dipper is though, right?
  • Side note: the Big Dipper isn’t technically a constellation, but if you can find the two bright stars in the handle that are closest to the bowl of the Dipper, draw an imaginary line through them going away from the bowl and about halfway down the sky. The comet is currently positioned almost directly on that line.
  • Next, you should easily be able to spot two very bright stars on opposite sides of the line you just drew from the Dipper. Bright red Arcturus will be towards the southeast, and the very bright bluish-white star Vega will be low in the northeast. Now, if you imagine another line between Arcturus and Vega, the place where that line intersects your line from the Big Dipper will be close to where the comet is located.
  • So take your best pair of binoculars and slowly sweep through that region of the sky looking for a fuzzy greenish-bluish patch of light. Once you find it you’ll be able to aim your telescope at it. Even a small telescope should reveal some details of the comet. It
  • ’s best to start with low power and work your way up if you have a choice of lenses.
  • PS: Don’t confuse nearby M 13 with the comet! M 13, or Messier Object 13, is “The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules”. It’s a cluster of hundreds of thousands of stars that might be mistaken for a comet when seen through binoculars or a small telescope.
  • Please refer to our finder chart below, and let us know if this was helpful. If so, we’ll try to keep the info updated as the comet gets brighter and changes location over the next few weeks.
  • Location of Comet C2022 E3 ZTF
  • Courtesy of Jim Hale

Previous: State of the Earth Reports: are archived on “Space News Archives”