Saturday 11 June 2022

Comet C/2021 E3 (ZTF) comes to perihelion.

Comet C/2021 E3 (ZTF) will teach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) slightly after 10.05 pm GMT on Saturday 11 June 2022, when it will be approximately 1.78 AU from the Sun (i.e. 1.78 times as far from the Sun as the planet Earth, or 265 895 500 km). At this time the comet will be 1.26 AU from the Earth, in the constellation of Mensa (close to the South Celestial Pole and better observed from the Southern Hemisphere), having a magnitude of 12.4, making it visible with a reasonable telescope, although it will not be visible from much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Comet C/2021 E3 (ZTF) seen from Kruibeke in Belgium on 17 April 2022. Composite image made up from three 120 second exposures. BREXIIS Observatory

C/2021 E3 (ZTF) was discovered on 2 March 2021 by the Zwicky Transient Facility at Palomar Observatory in California. The name  C/2021 E3 (ZTF) implies that it is a comet (C/), that it was the third comet like body (comet ) discovered in the first half of March 2021 (period 2021 E) and that it was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility.

The trajectory of Comet C/2021 E3 (ZTF), and its current position. JPL Small Body Database.

Comet C/2021 E3 (ZTF) is a Parabolic Comet, which is to say a comet that was disrupted from an orbit in the Oort Cloud, and is passing through the Inner Solar System on a parabolic orbit that will probably not bring it back again. This parabolic trajectory tilted at an angle of 113° to the plain of the Solar System, that will bring it in to 1.78 AU from the Sun at perihelion on 11 June 2022, between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter.

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