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Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) Brightens
December 30, 2022

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was captured in this snapshot taken on December 30, 2022, at 5:47 am EST from Atsion in Wharton State Forest, NJ, with a Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod. It's a single raw frame exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 10,000. The raw image was slightly adjusted, cropped to about 90% of the original linear dimensions for a 4:3 aspect ratio and a field 8.6 wide x 6.4 high, then converted to a JPEG in Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4. Mouseover for labels.

On this morning, C/2022 E3 was in the constellation Corona Borealis (here's a view with the entire semicircle) and was easily seen in a clear sky at 4:40 am with handheld 15x56 binoculars. Current visual estimates at COBS are running in the magnitude 7.x range as of Dec 30.

 

This snapshot of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was also taken at Atsion on December 30, 2022, but at 5:05 am EST, with the same Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod. It's a single raw frame exposed just 2 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 12,800 (the shorter exposure allows a greater magnifying crop without star trailing that would be seen at 4 seconds exposure). The enlargement better shows the stubby dust tail to the upper-left of the coma (the SkyTools finder chart linked near the top of this page shows the ion tail, which is not visible here).

The raw image was slightly adjusted, cropped to about 25%% of the original linear dimensions for a 4:3 aspect ratio and a field 2.5 wide x 1.9 high, then converted to a JPEG in Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4. Mouseover for labels. The position at which the comet was seen two days earlier is also marked. It moved about three-quarters of a degree during that interval.

 

 

Crescent Moon, Mercury and Venus
December 24, 2022

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2022, the 36.1 hr old, 3.4% illuminated crescent Moon with earthshine joined the planets Mercury and  Venus along the southwest horizon after sunset. This snapshot of them was captured at 5:23 pm EST, 43 minutes after sunset at 4:40 pm. Taken with a Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod. It's a single raw frame exposed 1/60 second at f/2.8, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. The raw image was mildly adjusted and saved to a JPEG with Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4. It's uncropped for a field 10.3 wide x 6.9 high. At the time the picture was captured, the Moon was at 4.7 altitude, 6.6 from Venus and 4.6 from Mercury. Venus and Mercury were 4.2 apart. Mouseover for labels.

As discussed in this Bob King article at Sky & Telescope online, during this Mercury elongation, all of the solar system's planets could be sighted in short order. This evening, I arrived at Swede Run at 5:00 pm and immediately saw the Moon and Venus with unaided eyes. I then looked with 8x42 binoculars and saw Mercury along with Venus and the Moon, simultaneously in the same 9.1 field-of-view. By 5:05 pm, Mercury was unambiguous with unaided eyes. It was at greatest eastern elongation on December 21, and on December 24, it was 49% illuminated (technically a crescent). It had had dimmed slightly from previous sightings this month to magnitude -0.3.

 At 5:15 pm, I looked up and the other two bright planets, Jupiter and Mars, were obvious to unaided eyes. Dimmer Saturn was also seen with a little effort. With the 8x42s as twilight darkened, I spotted even dimmer Uranus at 5:25 pm, but I couldn't find Neptune, the dimmest planet, at Swede Run. However, on the way home I stopped at the vegetable stand on Church St in Moorestown, where at 5:50 pm, I did find Neptune with the 8x42s. That's the third time this week I've spotted all the planets in less than an hour, previously on December 18 and 21.

 

 

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
December 21, 2022

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was captured in this snapshot taken on December 21, 2022, at 4:50 am EST from Wharton State Forest in NJ with a Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod. It's a single raw frame exposed 2 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 12,800. The raw image was slightly adjusted, cropped to about 20% of the original linear dimensions for a 4:3 aspect ratio and a field 2.0 wide x 1.5 high, then converted to a JPEG in Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4. Mouseover for a label.

On the morning of December 21, C/2022 E3 was in the constellation Corona Borealis (near Epsilon CrB) and was easily found initially at 4:37 am with a 115 mm spotting scope at 30x with which it displayed the coma extension to the left as seen in the image. Subsequently, it was seen as a faint smudge in 15x56 binoculars (the first time for me with binoculars after several prior sightings with the 115 mm scope). Current estimates at COBS are running around magnitude 8, and by February 2023, it should reach magnitude 5 or so.

 

 

Mercury and Venus
December 9, 2022

The planets Mercury and Venus were captured in this snapshot taken at 5:08 pm EST on December 9, 2022, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, where the sun set at 4:34 pm. Venus, magnitude -3.9, was initially spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 4:39 pm when it was at 6.0 altitude. Mercury was initially spotted with the 15x56s at 4:55 pm when it was 5.6 altitude. I then had a solid sighting of Venus (not just a glimpse) with unaided eyes at 4:57 pm when it was at 3.3 altitude. This is my first such unaided-eye sighting this elongation. At the time of the picture, the two planets were 5.0 apart, while Mercury and Venus were 3.7 and 1.7 altitude respectively. Taken with a Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod. It's a single raw frame exposed 1/200 second at f/2.8, ISO 800. The raw image was mildly adjusted and cropped to 64% of the original linear dimensions for a field 6.6 wide x 4.4 high, then converted to a JPEG in Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4. Mouseover to clear labels.

 

 

The Moon Passes Close to Mars
December 7, 2022

On December 7, 2022, the Moon, full at 11:08 pm EST, would occult the planet Mars, which would reach opposition about one-and-a-half hours later, at 12:42 am on December 8, so essentially, both objects were at opposition. However, while much of the United States would see an occultation (the Moon passing in front of Mars), here in New Jersey, it would be a near miss. At my home in Maple Shade, NJ, at the closest approach around 10:50 pm, there would be less than an arc minute of separation. Unfortunately, the gloomy weather during the day continued into the night and at the time of closest approach, it was mostly cloudy. However, there were fleeting gaps in the cloud density exposing the Moon and Mars side-by-side through a hazy veil.

Initially, I stepped out front at 10:50 pm with little hope of seeing the moon. Quite luckily, it was visible (in spurts) and I was able to see Mars close to the Moon with 15x56 binoculars. I then got out my camera and took some snapshots, including the one above when Mars was 2'20" from the lunar limb. I was back out at 11:20 pm with my 88 mm apo spotting scope, and using the 25 to 60x range of the zoom eyepiece, I had a very nice view of the pair during moments of sufficient clearing. In particular, Mars showed a nice ruddy disc, even at 25x. In the picture, the Moon would be moving nominally from the upper right to the lower left (west to east) with respect to the background stars and Mars.

The picture above was taken at 11:10 pm with a Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Tamron 150 to 600 mm f/5.0-6.3 zoom lens (set to 600 mm focal length) on a fixed tripod. It was manually exposed 1/125 sec at f/8.0, ISO 6400 and daylight white balance. It was difficult to get a good exposure due to the fluctuations in brightness caused by the passing clouds, which also reduced the sharpness a bit. It was mildly adjusted in Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4 and cropped to a 4:3 ratio using about a third of the original frame for a displayed field 1.10 wide x 0.83 high. Mouseover for labels.

The image below is a further crop of the same snapshot above, to about 9% of the original frame (and a 16:9 ratio) for a field 0.33 wide x 0.19 high to better show Mars. No additional adjustments were made.

 

 

 

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