Early risers and astronomy geeks will get to view something in the Earth's skies that has not been seen for more than 400 years.
The Comet Nishimura, or C/2023 P1, which emits a green glow from its coma, will be making its closest approach to Earth this week and could be seen by the unaided eye in the Northern Hemisphere.
While the comet, discovered by amateur Japanese astronomer Hideo Nishimura in early August, will be closest to Earth on Tuesday, it still will be 78 million miles away, EarthSky reported.
Its brightness will peak over the weekend and into Monday's sunrise, rivaling that of the North Star. Binoculars or a telescope can be used for a better view.
The comet will continue to brighten as it streaks toward the sun. To view it, according to EarthSky, look toward the northeastern horizon about 90 minutes before dawn and expect to see the comet pass about 10 degrees above the horizon near the constellation Leo.
The comet makes its closest approach to the sun on Sept. 17, when it will be at its brightest, EarthSky reported, but will be difficult to see because it will be close to the sun in the dome of the sky. The comet's orbit will take it inside the orbit of Mercury, which is about 33 million miles from the sun.
NASA reported Saturday that the comet's tail is growing as it approaches the sun, as solar winds knock dust and ice from the comet’s surface. It said the expelled dust from the comet's last visit to the inner solar system might be responsible for the Sigma Hydrids meteor shower that peaks yearly in December. If true, NASA said it's possible this year's meteor shower will be more active with new debris.
Whether the half-mile-sized comet makes it past the sun without disintegrating is unknown. Quanzhi Ye, a researcher at the University of Maryland who studies comets and asteroids, told The Washington Post that because the comet apparently survived a previous journey around the sun, it could do so again.
Vishnu Reddy, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told The New York Times the comet's orbit around the sun takes about 435 years, meaning it last passed Earth in 1588, 21 years before Galileo invented his telescope. Should it survive its journey around the sun, Nishimura won't pass Earth again until 2458.
Michael Katz ✉
Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and poltics.
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