Feb 8

Comet ZTF Visits Mars on Feb 10!

This Friday evening from 8 PM to 10 PM, SVO will set up a couple of telescopes at the Sand Caves parking area off US-89 north of Kanab to provide everyone a chance to observe Comet C2023 E3 (ZTF) as it whizzes past the planet Mars! On that night, the two celestial objects will be less than 2 degrees apart! 

ZTF has already looped around the sun and is speeding away from Earth, becoming less bright as it flies back out into deep space. Friday, February 10, will be a good opportunity to catch it if you haven’t seen it yet, or want to see it again before it fades away. Friday night’s forecast is partly cloudy and cold. Dress warm and bring a telescope if you own one.

ZTF achieved maximum brightness at magnitude. 5.4 on Feb 1. But this Friday, at 78 degrees above the horizon, shining at mag 6.5 with no moonlight, it should be a pleasing sight right next to Mars. This appulse between the comet and Mars is a special one time occurrence because, as you know, comets don’t hang around very long! It will be 5 degrees away from Mars on Saturday night, but the forecast is mostly cloudy that night.

The sand caves parking area is located adjacent to the highway where Kanab Canyon meets US-89. Going north on 89 from Kanab, turn right into the lower entrance to Best Friends as if you were going to the Best Friends Visitor Center. But then immediately after exiting the highway, turn left into the gravel parking area at the intersection of US-89 and Angel Canyon Road.  As soon as you see where telescopes are set up, try to steer away so your lights don’t interfere with observations.

The next free public star party in SVO’s 2023 monthly series will be Tuesday, February 21, beginning at 7:00 PM at Jackson Flat Reservoir. We’ll catch the conjunction of Venus and the slim crescent Moon, with Jupiter nearby!

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