How to spot the green comet Nishimura in the sky this week

Comet Nishimura was photographed from Spain on August 12

Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

This week, observers in the Northern Hemisphere will have the opportunity to spot a comet, whose green tail glows in the early morning as it approaches the sun. Comet Nishimura, or C/2023 P1, will not be visible from the Southern Hemisphere until late October.

When should I look for the culprit?

Comet Nishimura will be visible in the morning before sunrise until September 17, when it will pass close to the sun. The best time to check is early in the morning, seven days a week, as it will be difficult to see when it is close to the sun. After September 17, if the comet survives passing close to the Sun, it will be difficult to see in the Northern Hemisphere but may be visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

How can I discover a comet?

Look to the northeast about an hour before sunrise, and the comet should be low in the sky, in the constellation Leo. Use a stargazing app to find out exactly where it is in your location.

If you cannot see the comet without any visual aid, try looking with binoculars, through which you will be able to see the shape of the comet’s tail. If it’s visible to the naked eye, it may look like a fuzzy bubble. “The expectation is that it may only be visible to the naked eye but it will be better to see it “Binoculars,” says Don Polacco of the University of Warwick. “With comets you never know.”

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Is Comet Nishimura rare?

Comet Nishimura was discovered just a month ago by amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura. This makes it very rare, as we usually have more warning between finding a comet and it becoming more visible in our skies.

Comets that can be seen with the naked eye are not particularly rare; Another green comet passed close to Earth earlier this year. But this particular planet takes 437 years to orbit the sun, so it won’t return until 2423.

Why is Nishimura green?

The comet appears green because its coma, the gas surrounding the nucleus, contains a relatively rare type of carbon gas called diatomic carbon, which consists of two carbon atoms bonded together.

What is a comet?

Comets are balls of ice and rock that orbit the Sun from the Oort Cloud, a region of the outer Solar System. As it approaches the Sun, its ice turns into gas and flows out of it like a tail, which we can sometimes see from Earth. This makes it difficult to predict how easily they will be seen from Earth.

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