Newly discovered comet visible in night sky this weekend

This weekend, a comet named Nishimura that was found just a month ago may be visible to the unaided eye, providing astronomers with a once-in-a-437-year opportunity to view the cosmic visitor.

The actual size of the rock and ice ball is still unclear, but it bears the name of Hideo Nishimura, a Japanese amateur astronomer who made the initial observation of it on August 11.

Comets seldom reach their maximum visibility window thus soon after they are detected, according to Paris Observatory astronomer Nicolas Biver.

He informed AFP that "most are discovered months, even years, before they pass closest to the sun."

He mentioned that the comet's orbital cycle is lengthy, causing it to spend most of its time in the frigid outer solar system, and that it only passes by the sun once every 437 years.

Comets that approach the sun from deep space have a long tail of dust and gas as their ice core melts due to heat.

We can see comets from Earth because of the way the sun's light bounces off this tail.

On September 17, Nishimura, also known by its scientific designation C/2023 P1, will get closest to the sun.

Biver noted that it will be less than a quarter the distance between Earth and the sun, at 33 million kilometers (20 million miles) from the sun.

After that, the comet will travel 125 million kilometers away from Earth without posing any threat.

This Saturday and Sunday will be the best times for stargazers to see the comet, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.

"The best course of action is to look up at the sky before sunrise, in a clear, pollution-free sky, northeastern direction, to the left of Venus," said Biver.

It will be easy for anyone with modest binoculars to take in the show. However, if circumstances permit, it is possible to see the comet with the unaided eye.

Because the comet has "more gas than dust," according to Biver, its tail is somewhat green.