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Comet ZTF Already Seen from Oregon Coast; Dramatic Video of Tail Hit

Published 01/30/23 at 4:59 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Comet ZTF Already Spotted on Oregon Coast; Dramatic Video of Tail Hit

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(Oregon Coast) – From deep space to Oregon's coastline, there's a lot going on with that big, green visitor that's quickly approaching Earth, including the fact there was a cosmic collision of sorts involving the tail from Comet 2022 E3 ZTF. (Above: video still from Miguel Claro, Portugal)

At least two reports have come from Oregon of the latest cosmic visitor to our skies, which happen to be from Oregon's coast. One, seen on this Reddit thread, has a claim of already spotting the green, glowing comet from this region. Another report came from KGW TV, which broadcast a photo of the comet taken by a couple from Seaside.

But does that mean you should get your hopes up? Yes, it does.

Jim Todd, astronomy expert with Portland's OMSI, said it's getting closer to being visible with the naked eye, with the ancient object growing brighter by the day.

Yet plenty are reporting it's seen without the aid of equipment. Among the myriad of others confirming that it's already visible with the naked eye is Peter Forister in Louisa, Virginia, who captured this astounding shot on January 24.

Even at its brightest and closest, however, the comet will still be tiny and faint. You'll still be best off using binoculars.

Comet ZTF Already Spotted from Oregon Coast; Dramatic Video of Tail Hit
Comet Neowise in 2020, photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection

The other magnificent feature of Comet ZTF: this is the first time it's been seen by the Earth's residents some 50,00 years ago, back when Neanderthals still ruled the planet. It's been that long since its swing-by.

So how to find it if you're on the Oregon coast, Washington coast or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest?

Disconnection of the Comet E3 ZTF from Miguel Claro on Vimeo.

Look to the north. According to Alan Dyers' diagram below (at bottom of article), it's in the general direction of the Little Dipper and the Big Dipper. It's often about 34 degrees up, which is a little bit more than a third of the way. See here from University of Oregon how to tell degrees with just your fist.

“Currently, the comet is in the direction of the constellation Boötes and not far from the border with Hercules,” Todd said.

A good way to look for its position live is at

Yet there's interstellar intrigue happening here. Just a few days ago was a rather traumatic event for the comet: it had part of its tail lopped off somewhat by a rush from the solar winds. A series of large coronal mass ejections (CME) erupted from the sun on January 26, causing the comet's tail to thin out near the head. You can see that part getting narrower as it's kicked away by all that magnetic wave activity.

It's called a “disconnection event,” where solar winds hit the tail of a comet and tear some of it off and away into the cosmos. This is a bit of real life Star Trek.

Astrophotographer Miguel Claro took this timelapse video above from the Dark Sky® Alqueva Observatory in Portugal.

About it he wrote:

"This time lapse sequence comprising 3.5 hours of images shows a piece of the plasma tail being uprooted from the comet’s head, and then carried away by the solar wind," says Claro. "This long distance traveller not seen in 50,000 years, was moving fast against the background starry sky alsongside a few rapid greenish meteors."

Yet that's not the only surprise here. There's also an “anti-tail” visible in the video. There appears to be a “third tail” erupting from the greenish glow around the comet that's coming out the front of it. See Oregon Coast Weather - Washington Coast Weather

It's actually an optical illusion created by our point of view in relation to the dust from the comet being lit up.

The Science Times explains:

“As Earth passes across a comet's orbital plane, the Sun reilluminates a part of the dust and makes it look like a brilliant streak, which might appear to shoot out of the opposite direction of the other tails of the comet depending on the space rock's trajectory and orientation. However, this is an optical illusion, as there is no additional tail.”

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Photo Michael Jaeger on January 4, 2023 @ Jauerling, Austria

Photo Michael Jaeger on January 4, 2023 @ Jauerling, Austria

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Coastal Spotlight

Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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