A comet discovered just in August will be visible to the naked eye when it flies 78 million miles past Earth on Tuesday before disappearing for another 400 years.
Nishimura, named after the Japanese photographer who captured it on August 11, can be identified by its greenish glow as it sweeps across the northeastern hemisphere in all parts of the world, including the United States and Britain.
Astronomers said the best chance for skywatchers to see this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle is to look near the constellation Leo about 90 minutes before sunrise.
The comet last visited about 435 years ago, about a decade or two before Galileo invented the telescope – and it will next be visible from Earth in 2458.
A comet discovered just in August will be visible to the naked eye when it flies 78 million miles past Earth on Tuesday before disappearing for another 400 years
The green comet is hurtling through space at 240,000 miles per hour, and although it has already been visible in the sky, it will shine brightly on Tuesday and the following days.
It will fly closer to Earth than the moon, which is 238 million miles from our planet.
The nucleus is the solid, central part of the comet and is made up of rock, dust, and frozen gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
The miraculous ice ball contains a molecule called dicarbon, which produces a green glow when it decays.
Nishimura may be visible to the naked eye, but it’s even easier to spot with binoculars or a telescope.
Before the comet leaves the solar system, it will approach the sun around September.
However, Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said the comet could disintegrate as it gets close to the sun.
Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project, said in an email that next week represents “the last viable chance” to see the comet from the Northern Hemisphere before it is lost in sunlight.
Astronomer Gianluca Masi captured comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura over Marciano, Italy, on September 5, 2023
Astronomers said the best chance for skywatchers to see this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle is to look near the constellation Leo about 90 minutes before sunrise
“The comet looks fantastic at the moment, with a long, highly textured tail, it’s a joy to image with a telescope,” he said.
Masi said that if the comet survives its contact with the sun, it should be visible in the Southern Hemisphere by the end of September, hovering low on the horizon at dusk.
The comet was discovered on August 12 by Japan’s Hideo Nishimura using a telephoto lens mounted on a Canon camera while it was about 93 million miles from the sun.
Stargazers have been tracking the rare green comet since it was discovered by a Japanese amateur astronomer in mid-August. The Nishimura Comet now bears his name.
It’s unusual for an amateur to discover a comet these days, given all the professional sky surveys by powerful ground-based telescopes, Chodas said, adding: “This is his third find, so good for him.”
The comet’s last visit was about 430 years ago, Chodas said. This is about a decade or two before Galileo invented the telescope.