Time.news – NASA’s “photo of the day” is the shot of the ‘Neanderthal comet‘ published last Wednesday by Time.news courtesy of dhe Ragusan astrophotographer Dario Giannobile. Giannobile’s eye captured the ZTF comet on snowy Etna.
The US space agency points out that the photo, taken in the “cold night” of January 23 last year, captures the turquoise green color of the canopy for which increased sunlight and solar wind are responsible. This weekend the comet crosses the skies between the star Polaris and the Big Dipper. It comes from the Oort cloud, believed to be the ‘cradle’ of comets. “Although it was not difficult to reach the position from which to photograph the comet – explained to Time.news Giannobile, often awarded by NASA for his photos – the atmospheric conditions were certainly prohibitive. During the night the temperature dropped to -8 C at an altitude of 2000m, an exceptionally cold temperature for Sicily. The landscape was however breathtaking: an expanse of soft snow disturbed only by some fox and rabbit footprints. The branches of the trees bent under the weight of the snow but, above all, the crater of Sud Est was totally covered in snow”. “Its sight – says Giannobile – is breathtaking, expressing, in a single image, a feeling of strength and delicacy. Looking at it, it is possible to see its internal walls through the fracture that caused the collapse of part of the conical building. Some hot spots appear in the dark: they are fumaroles from which volcanic vapors come out, and in all this, the beauty of the sky with the splendid comet that rises from the side of the volcano.It shines thanks to a beautiful turquoise green crown and is embellished with a long tail and from a small anticoda and from hundreds of stars that make it a probe in the sky”.
Comets are perhaps the most fascinating objects in the sky. “They are mainly made up of ice, dust and rocks – recalls Giannobile – and it was Giotto who had them identified as the guiding star of the magi by frescoing them in the Scrovegni chapel in 1303. There are several elements that contribute to the charm of these objects. Surely the rarity with which comets appear in the sky, their difficulty in being seen with the naked eye but above all the beauty of the tail and the crown when they manage to be observed among the infinite stars of the firmament”.
Comet C/2022 E2 ZTF, also known as Green comet or Neanderthal comet (because perhaps it was seen by Neanderthal men), returns to cross the solar system after about 50,000 years. On February 1 at 18:11, the comet is expected to pass its closest approach to Earth, about 42.5 million kilometers from our planet. Known since March 2, C/2022 E3 ZTF has been identified by astronomers Bryce Bolin and Frank Masci, of the Zwicky Transient Facility in California.