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Look up: Rare comet visible to the naked eye – if the clouds part

Astronomers expect C/2020 E3 (ZTF) to be brightest at month’s end

Lucky Budd, a Victoria man with a blooming hobby as a night sky photographer, keeps a keen eye on the skies these days.

Like many a stargazer, he was watchful for a rare comet, visible via backyard telescope or binoculars. In truly dark skies, recently discovered C/2020 E3 (ZTF) can be seen by the naked eye.

When the clouds broke for 45 minutes on a Saturday night, Budd hustled to get the gear out and photograph C/2020 E3 (ZTF).

“The last time this comet came by our little planet was 50,000 years ago,” said Budd, who encouraged folks to find and download a free star chart app. “You literally hold your phone or tablet up to the sky and it shows you where everything is.”

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It’s just a matter of looking up, said Metchosin resident Bill Wier of the Victoria branch of the Royal Astrophysical Observatory, based at the Saanich observatory.

Those in the know make predictions on its path and visibility based on how close it is, and what the orbit of C/2020 E3 (ZTF) looks like.

“You just never know about comets,” he hedged. “There’s a common analogy that comets are like cats, you know it’s there but you never know what it’s going to do.”

They expect it to brighten at month’s end when it’s closest to Earth – but you have to know where to look.

Weir’s managed to pick it out from between clouds a few times in recent weeks by heading down to the end of Taylor Road in a darker part of Metchosin.


Right now it’s passing between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper and will run right between them over the week.

“Each day it moves (across) a good section of the sky,” Weir explained. Anyone with binoculars who went out around midnight when things are higher in the sky could look more straight up and have better luck.

People with cameras have been getting spectacular images, Weir said, referencing Budd’s images posted online for the world to enjoy.


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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