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A new comet visible to the eye in September 2023?

A new comet visible to the eye in September 2023?

Hideo Nishimura, of Kakegawa City, Japan, was photographing the night sky on August 11-12, 2023, when he picked up a new comet that now bears his name. Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura is currently moving in front of the constellation Gemini, low in the dawn sky. The comet was hiding in the glare of the sun before Nishimura captured it in his photographs. It will continue to brighten as it approaches the Sun, bringing it into binocular range. But will it become bright enough to be seen with the eyes alone?

Although it is estimated that the comet may become bright enough to see without optical aid, at its brightest the comet will be very close to the region of the sky where the Sun is. Thus, it may be difficult to locate the comet against sunlight or daylight. But during the last days of August and the first days of September, we still have opportunities to try to spot the celestial visitor with binoculars, a small telescope or long-exposure images, before it gets too close to the sun’s circumference. Of course, we can always hope for an explosion while it’s still far from the sun.

The current observed size is around 9.2Which means that people using telescopes in the dark sky can spot it. last Notes The comet’s tail is eight arc minutes long. The comet should continue to brighten and grow its tail as it approaches the sun. The comet will be brightest in September, when it is closest to the Sun and Earth.

Comet Nishimura is accelerating toward the Sun

By August 15-16, 2023, the comet was already passing Earth’s orbit as it approached the Sun. Comet Nishimura is moving so fast that it will reach the orbit of Venus in just a few days… by August 27, 2023.

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Sky lovers can observe the comet with a small telescope during the rest of August (see charts below). And you’d better try to see it now, because it might not survive its passage so close to the sun. This is due to its passing very close to our star. Comet Nishimura will pass much closer to the Sun than Mercury orbits. If Comet Nishimura survives into August, it should become a binocular object during the first morning of September. Then, observers with an unobstructed view of the east-northeast horizon could get a good binocular view of Comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) around September 10, about 45 minutes before sunrise.

Will the new comet be bright enough to see with the naked eye in September? maybe! Photo (from 2020) via Howen/ Unsplash.

New comet trajectory

With a new comet, there haven’t been a lot of observations, and the trajectory is still being determined. As of August 21, 2023, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have performed new orbital calculations indicating that Comet Nishimura orbits the Sun every 202 years, indicating that this is a “native” comet from our solar system rather than an interstellar comet.

Closest approaches to Earth and the Sun have also been updated by 1 day each. Its closest approach to Earth will occur on September 12, 2023, when the comet will pass within 78 million miles (125 million km) of Earth. Perihelion – or closest approach to the Sun – will be on September 17, 2023, and it will pass within 27 million miles (43.7 million kilometers) of our star.

Some details may be updated as new observations allow scientists to refine the comet’s orbit.

Comet Nishimura tours the zodiac. It will move from Gemini to the constellation Cancer in late August and early September. It will cross Leo in mid-September and then visit Virgo in the second half of September.

How bright is the comet?

It is always difficult to estimate the brightness of a comet because it is so unpredictable. While Comet Nishimura can be bright enough to see with the naked eye, it can also collapse as it approaches the sun. But here is a rough estimate of how bright the comet will be on certain dates and where it will be found.

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Star Walk The comet has an estimated magnitude of 4.9 – within the range of the naked eye – on September 11th. And on the morning of September 11th, you can search for the comet before dawn. The first thing you’ll notice in the eastern sky is a crescent moon, followed by the bright planet Venus nearby. The comet will be near the pair and near the star Adhavira (Zeta Leonis) in Leo’s sickle (backward question mark). Keep in mind that the bright sunlight coming from below the horizon will make it very difficult to detect anything in the sky.

The comet’s closest approach to Earth will be on September 12, when it will be 0.85 astronomical units away. Around this time, the comet transitions from being a morning body to an evening body. On September 15, the comet will be just 10 arc minutes away from the second brightest star in the constellation Leo, Denebula. But the pair will also be only 12 degrees from the sun, making it difficult to catch up with them after sunset before they set.

Starwalk estimates the comet to have a magnitude of 3.2 during perihelion – when the comet is closest to the Sun – on September 17th. Again, when the comet is bright and close to the Sun, it will be hard to see because it will be close to the Sun. And on the dome of our sky too.

Maps of the new comet C/2023 P1

Sky map showing Venus on the horizon, Cancer and the comet.
The position of comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) on August 27, 2023, about 45 minutes before sunrise. Illustration by Eddie Irizary using Stellarium.
Sky map showing Venus, Cancer and a comet.
The position of comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) on September 3, 2023, about 45 minutes before sunrise. Illustration by Eddie Irizary using Stellarium.
Sky map showing Venus and part of the constellation Leo with comet referenced.
The position of comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) on September 10, 2023, about 45 minutes before sunrise. Illustration by Eddie Irizary using Stellarium.

Farewell to Comet Nishimura

As the comet moves away from the sun, its brightness will diminish. By mid-October, it will be farther from the Sun in our sky (20 degrees) but darker. It will also be in broad daylight or below the horizon most of the time. How long can you follow Nishimura upon his exit?

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Bottom line: The new comet, called Nishimura, may be bright enough to be seen with the naked eye in September. Learn how to see it here.

via NASA

via MPEC

via Star Walk