Next week, a recently discovered comet will occasionally pass by Earth. But finding it will require some knowledge. Early in August, Japanese astronomer Hideo Nishimura was taking pictures of the night sky when he noticed Comet Nishimura for the first time.
Since then, the celestial object has become brighter as it orbits the sun, moving through the inner solar system. The comet could be visible for the next five days because it will be 78 million miles (125 million km) from Earth on Tuesday, the day of its closest approach.
Nishimura completes one orbit roughly every 430 to 440 years, “which means the last time it passed close to the Sun (and might have come closer to Earth) was around the year 1590, before the invention of the telescope,” wrote Dr. Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in an email. We are unsure of whether it was brilliant enough to be seen back then with the naked eye.
Nishimura does not appear to be associated with any comets documented during that time period, but it would have needed to be quite bright to be observed.
About Comet’s Discovery
Hideo Nishimura found the comet ten days ago while taking 30-second exposures with an ordinary digital camera. Since then, C/2023 P1 Nishimura’s brightness has increased and its route through the inner Solar System has been identified. The comet will undoubtedly continue to brighten as it approaches the Sun, and early in September it may perhaps become visible to the human eye. It will only be possible to observe the comet near sunset or sunrise because it will also be angularly close to the Sun. The comet’s nucleus may fragment when it approaches the Sun in the vicinity of Mercury’s orbit.
To view the Nishimura Comet
Due to the comet’s distance and the fact that it will be travelling towards the horizon, binoculars are the finest tool for viewing it. Additionally, viewing is best under dark skies far from city lights. Sky and Telescope has published maps that can be used by sky watchers to locate the comet.
The comet’s tail will always point away from the sun. The sunlight continuously pulls on the tiny dust particles, said Dave Schleicher, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Arizona. If you’re attempting to identify the comet from other objects in the night sky.
The comet will be harder to spot the closer it gets to the sun and the horizon. The comet will pass in front of the sun and Earth on Wednesday.
Within a few days after that, “it might theoretically be visible in the evening sky. It will still be quite close to the sun in the sky and will be buried in bright twilight.” “It will probably not be visible unless it becomes quite a bit brighter than expected.”