February is quite an interesting month for stargazers with a green comet to see.
From 03 February Comet ZTF will be visible from Johannesburg. It will appear as a dimmish light with green, fussy tail in the North from around 8pm. It will be difficult to see during these first few days due to moonlight and light pollution.
However, as the month progresses, it will increase in visibility as it rises in the sky, with best visibility around 11-14 Feb. During these days it will be near Mars which is a useful guide. After mid-Feb it will start to diminish again, due to it facing away from us (like the back of an arrow) and lose visibility around 06 March.
After that, you will have to wait 50,000 years to see it again. That's not that long though, considering it's not even the end of January!
It will not be easy to spot with the untrained eye (a smudge on one’s glasses might be mistaken for a comet), but if you are a member of the Dainfern Astronomy WA group, I will help you find it. Most photos you see online are long-exposure photos so expect to see less clarity than that. You will need binoculars/telescope/camera. You can also try use the app: Comet Book to find it.
This comet is a large, icy, rock that was left over during the formation of our solar system. It will continue to orbit the sun over millions of years, until it eventually collides with an object (hopefully not Earth). It’s not worrying at all that it was only discovered last year!
When you book a stargazing session with us, you get an invite to our private Dainfern Astronomy Club where we help you find things in the sky.
Himkaar Singh – CEO of Telescope Night (Pty) Ltd