I have had such good lunch photographing prior comets I was eagerly looking forward to seeing and photographing Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3). This comet is such a big draw because it has not passed earth in 50,000 years and will not likely return again. When I finally had a relatively clear night February 1, I was outside and ready to go. I had a much harder time than I expected. I glassed the right area of the sky with binoculars and I could not find anything that looked like a comet. So I took pictures of the northern sky which you can see above. On the back of my camera I could not the comet. So I downloaded the memory can looked on my computer monitor.
Click the images in this article to see a larger version.
I enlarged the file to 100% “actual pixels” magnification (one pixel in the image file is one pixel on the monitor) and continued my search, going back and forth across the image, left to right and top to bottom.
I finally found a little smudge that might be Comet ZTF. It is just to right of the cyan arrow. I compared this area of the sky to the digitally generated sky in Stellarium, which is a free software download. There was no star in Sterllairum that matched the location of my smudge so I was excited that I might have photographed Comet ZTF. But to be more confident I had photographed the comet, I needed to photograph it again and see if it moved up in the northern sky.
February 2 was not a good sky night so I went out again February 3. I jazzed up the exposure with a higher ISO so I would record more stars, and hopefully the elusive comet. The is the capture image with a 17mm wide angle lens. I found my smudge again and it had jumped up in the sky, just like the comet maps say it would do. So I had indeed found Comet ZTF. I marked the February 1 smudge location with a red 1 and the February 3 smudge location with a red 3.
This is a side by side comparison of the same area of the sky February 1 and 3 at close to 100% magnification. The February 3 image shows a lot more stars and the comet is less faint in the February 3 image. The comet has jumped up in the night sky. Here’s the exposure data:
February 1, 2023 at 8:00 pm. 17-40mm lens at 17mm. f/4, 30 seconds, ISO 100.
February 3, 2023 at 7:07 pm. 17-40mm lens at 17mm. f/4, 4 seconds, ISO 3200.
So where will the comet be tonight, February 5?
Here’s the February 3 image again, except I have added the names of several constellations and two stars. Comet ZTF will be close to the bright star Capella tonight. Capella is almost straight up overhead around 7-10 pm, and moving from right to left as you face north and look pretty much straight up. Point your camera up and follow the comet photography advice in the Comet ZTF photography article. If you are looking with binoculars, face north and look at Capella. Comet ZTF will be to the left of Capella.
On February 10 the comet will be close to Mars. Check out the followeing star and comet map.
How to Photograph Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3)
How To Find and See Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3)
Comet ZTF at EarthSky with a morning sky map.